Petra Mayer

Petra Mayer is an associate editor and resident nerd at NPR Books, focusing on genre fiction. She brings to the job passion, speed-reading skills, and a truly impressive collection of Doctor Who doodads.

Previously, she was an associate producer and director for the weekend editions of All Things Considered. She handled all of the show's books coverage, and she was also the person to ask if you wanted to know how much snow falls outside NPR's Washington headquarters on a Saturday, how to belly dance, or what pro wrestling looks like up close and personal.

Mayer originally came to NPR as an engineering assistant in 1994, while still attending Amherst College. After three years spending summers honing her soldering skills in the maintenance shop, she made the jump to Boston's WBUR as a newswriter in 1997. Mayer returned to NPR in 2000 after a roundabout journey that included a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a two-year stint as a producer at the Prague headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. While at Columbia, she made a three-part documentary on pirate radio in America.

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Arts & Life
3:28 pm
Sat July 25, 2015

Want To Get Inside Your Favorite Show? Go To Comic-Con

This two-story ship is just one of many enormous marketing displays both inside and outside at San Diego Comic-Con.
Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 27, 2015 8:23 am

The swarms of fans are gone from San Diego, and the elaborate displays that spilled out of the city's convention center during Comic-Con have been dismantled. Nonetheless, the studios and networks are already planning next year's show, because Comic-Con is the sweet spot for a peculiar kind of advertising that's at its peak here.

It's called immersive — or experiential — marketing, and it has taken off in the past few years. I ventured onto the convention floor to check out some of the displays, like the the giant installation for the TNT network show The Last Ship.

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Movies
5:49 am
Sun July 12, 2015

She Was Groot: After A Galactic Hit, Marvel Screenwriter Tackles Comics

One of screenwriter Nicole Perlman's next projects is a comic based on Gamora, the green-skinned killer played by Zoe Saldana in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy.
Marvel Studios

Originally published on Sun July 12, 2015 6:29 am

Nicole Perlman was the first woman to get a screenwriting credit on a Marvel Studios movie, for last year's big hit Guardians of the Galaxy.

Perlman has been tapped to write the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, too, but first she's navigating a slightly less galactic challenge: Writing her first comic book.

What better place to prepare for that than San Diego Comic-Con?

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The Salt
5:51 am
Sun June 28, 2015

Do Try This At Home: Hacking Ribs — In The Pressure Cooker

To make baby back ribs in an hour, instead of the usual three to four hours, you'll need a pressure cooker.
Photo Illustration by Ryan Kellman and Emily Bogle NPR

Originally published on Mon July 13, 2015 10:01 am

This summer, NPR is getting crafty in the kitchen. As part of Weekend Edition's Do Try This At Home series, chefs are sharing their cleverest hacks and tips — taking expensive, exhausting or intimidating recipes and tweaking them to work in any home kitchen.

This week: Making delicious, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs in only about an hour — with a surprising piece of kitchen equipment.

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Book News & Features
5:03 am
Sat June 20, 2015

Summer Of Love: Meet Our Expert Panelists!

Mary McLain

Originally published on Mon June 22, 2015 11:20 am

While our intern is diligently tallying up the 18,000 nominations that came in for the Summer of Love reader poll (sorry, Intern Laura!), we thought we'd take the time to introduce you to the expert panel that will help us wrestle this massive list down to 100 finalists.

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Book News & Features
5:03 am
Thu June 11, 2015

Tell Us About Your Favorite Romances — It's The NPR Books Summer Of Love!

Mary McLain NPR

Originally published on Fri June 19, 2015 3:12 pm

We're bringing back our famous summer reader poll this year, and as the days get longer (and the nights get hotter), we think it's the perfect time to celebrate romance.

Whether you love historicals, paranormals, inspirationals, young adult, Amish, romantic suspense, contemporaries (or, like some people around here, you'd be perfectly happy never leaving the Regency), we want to hear about it! And with your help, we'll spend this summer putting together a great big bonbon box of 100 delicious love stories.

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Book News & Features
3:07 pm
Mon May 4, 2015

Ruth Rendell Dies, Pioneered The Psychological Thriller

Ruth Rendell won countless awards for her work, including the Mystery Writers of America's Grand Master Award and the Crime Writers' Association Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement.
Jerry Bauer

Originally published on Tue May 5, 2015 12:02 am

Famed British crime writer Ruth Rendell died this past weekend in London. She was 85 and had suffered a stroke in January.

Best known for her long-running Inspector Wexford series — which was adapted for television — she pioneered a psychological approach to thriller writing. She also wrote darker, more contemplative books as Barbara Vine. In her later years, she was made a baroness and took up Labour Party politics.

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The Two-Way
9:18 am
Thu April 30, 2015

Dozens Of Writers Join Protest Of Free Speech Award For 'Charlie Hebdo'

This pair of Charlie Hebdo covers from 2012 pokes fun at the magazine's "irresponsible" approach to humor.
AFP AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 12:28 pm

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

The protest over a free speech award to Charlie Hebdo continues to grow.

Earlier this week, six authors withdrew from the PEN American Center's annual gala in response to the organization's decision to give the French satirical magazine its Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

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Author Interviews
12:21 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Questions For David Levithan, Author Of 'Hold Me Closer'

Emily Jan NPR

Tiny Cooper is your new boyfriend (well, not mine, he doesn't swing that way). Readers met the flamboyant high school football player and would-be musical impresario as a side character in the 2010 novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson and fell in love — about as quickly as Tiny did with each of his 18 exes.

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Remembrances
4:08 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Author Terry Pratchett Was No Stranger To Death

Terry Pratchett wrote more than 70 books.
Rob Wilkins Courtesy of Doubleday

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 5:44 pm

Fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett was prolific: He wrote more than 70 books, dozens of them about the Discworld — a flat planet borne through space by four elephants on the back of a giant turtle. Pratchett died Thursday at age 66. He had been suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

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Book News & Features
1:26 am
Mon November 3, 2014

After 'Fifty Shades,' Could This Be The Next Big Online Hit?

Charles Sykes /AP

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 9:49 am

Much like Fifty Shades of Grey, After is an epic, erotic fan fiction that's being repackaged by a major publishing house. But where Fifty Shades was inspired by the Twilight books, After is loosely based on real people: The British boy band One Direction. And the first volume of After has just hit stores — but let's rewind a little, to those words, "fan fiction." I know, you're probably making a face right now, but bear with me.

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Author Interviews
5:07 pm
Sat October 18, 2014

Back Across The Wall: Questions For Garth Nix

Cover crop

Australian author Garth Nix anticipated the boom in young adult literature almost 20 years ago with Sabriel, a dark and delightful tale of a young woman from a long line of necromancers tasked with making sure the dead stay dead. Sabriel and its sequels Lirael and Abhorsen were set in two neighboring countries divided by a mysterious wall: to the south, unmagical Ancelstierre, roughly analogous to 1920s England — and to the north, the Old Kingdom, saturated by magic and menaced by the roaming Dead.

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Book News & Features
5:46 am
Sun September 21, 2014

Finding A Voice — Again — In The Pages Of A Comic Book

Recall and Given recasts the story of David Rector and Roz Alexander-Kasparik as a superhero comic.
Roz Alexander-Kasparik

Originally published on Sun September 21, 2014 9:15 am

This is a story about love. It's a story about bad things happening to good people, about memory and perseverance — and comic books. But most of all, it's a story about a voice. A mellow, smooth voice, just right for late-night jazz.

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Book News & Features
3:10 am
Sat August 9, 2014

Lev Grossman: A 'Magician' Grows Up

Lev Grossman's bestselling Magicians series was inspired by the long wait between books five and six of the Harry Potter series.
Mathieu Bourgois

Originally published on Sat August 9, 2014 9:40 am

The final book in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy comes out this week — The Magician's Land. It's a literary fantasy, inspired by Narnia and Harry Potter, that tells the story of what happens to brilliant young wizards when they grow up and have to deal with the world.

Grossman was promoting the novel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, and as I discovered, he's a fantastic — and slightly terrifying — person to see Comic-Con with. He has no problem taking unspoken insecurities and dragging them out into the light.

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Commentary
6:40 am
Sat July 26, 2014

We Can Be Heroes — With Some Glue And A Little Fabric

Twelve-year-old Hayley Lindsay spent almost a month working with her dad on this Toothless the Dragon costume. There are sawn-off crutches in the front legs so she can comfortably walk on all fours.
Petra Mayer

Originally published on Sat July 26, 2014 11:32 am

The San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing — celebrating not just comics, but movies, TV, books, video games and really cool costumes. It's called cosplay: the art and science of dressing up like your favorite character.

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Book Your Trip
6:05 am
Sat July 19, 2014

Watch Out For That Butterfly: The Lure Of Literary Time Travel

Guy Pearce aboard his time machine in the 2002 movie version of H.G. Wells' classic novel.
The Kobal Collection

Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 9:45 am

Where would you go, if you had a time machine? Ancient Egypt? Tang Dynasty China? The Globe Theater, in 1599? Or maybe to the 25th century, because who knows, Buck Rogers might actually be there.

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Author Interviews
5:03 am
Sat July 12, 2014

History In The Groove: Q&A With Author (And 78 Collector) Amanda Petrusich

Amanda Petrusich and the beginnings of her 78 collection.
Bret Stetka

If you've ever enjoyed the ghostly weird-old-America wail of Robert Johnson, the deep blues of Charley Patton or Skip James' guitar wizardry, you can thank the 78 collecting community — those dedicated (okay, obsessive) folks who hunt down the rare old shellac records that hold so much of our musical past.

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Author Interviews
5:03 am
Sat May 10, 2014

Questions For Earl Swift, Author Of 'Auto Biography'

Earl Swift traced the history of this '57 Chevy wagon and all of its owners — here it is, rusting quietly on the lot of owner number 13, Tommy Arney, in January 2010.
Earl Swift

Originally published on Sun May 11, 2014 3:16 pm

This '57 Chevy station wagon was once pristine, the epitome of American automotive glory: two-tone green, with sweeping fins and enough chrome to blind pedestrians. But by the time journalist Earl Swift came across it, those days were gone, and it was subsiding gently into a heap of rust and torn upholstery.

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Book News & Features
6:07 am
Sun April 20, 2014

'Traveling Pants' Author Tries Traveling In Time

Author Ann Brashares became a young adult superstar more than a decade ago with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a feel-good series of books about the adventures of four best friends and a really great pair of jeans. It was eventually made into a couple of movies.

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Arts & Life
3:08 am
Sun December 29, 2013

Winging It: Biking Around Again In Margaritaville

NPR's Petra Mayer has finally learned how to ride a bike.
Izolda Trakhtenberg

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 9:53 am

I love Key West, and I go there as often as possible: pina coladas, drag queens, shady hammocks, feral chickens — it's the best. There's just one problem: everyone gets around the island by bike, and I've never learned to ride one. Obviously that had to change.

Why didn't I learn? I really don't remember, and neither did my mom, when I asked her about the one time my parents tried to teach me. "You got on a big bicycle that was so big you couldn't really turn the wheels and got discouraged."

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Television
2:21 am
Sat November 23, 2013

Allons-y! Why We've Been Traveling With 'Doctor Who' For 50 Years

Jenna Coleman plays Clara, companion to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions is at the core of Doctor Who's long-lived appeal.
Adrian Rogers/BBC

Originally published on Sat November 23, 2013 9:18 am

This afternoon, millions of fez-wearing fans around the world will tune in to a very special episode of Doctor Who. The venerable British sci-fi series turns 50 today — though the time traveling alien Doctor himself is probably somewhere on the wrong side of 1,000.

From scrappy, low-budget beginnings (bubble-wrap monsters, anyone?), Doctor Who has become a global phenomenon. Only soap operas can match it for longevity and popularity. So what's the secret to the Doctor's appeal?

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Author Interviews
1:03 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

'Boxers & Saints' & Compassion: Questions For Gene Luen Yang

Originally published on Tue October 22, 2013 2:00 pm

Gene Luen Yang broke out in 2006 with American Born Chinese, the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. It weaves three stories — about a Chinese-American boy, a terrible stereotype named Chin-Kee and the mythical Monkey King — into a complex tapestry of identity and assimilation.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Austen Unvarnished: Q&A With Jo Baker, Author Of 'Longbourn'

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 1:21 pm

The world of Jane Austen — gracious country houses, empire-waist dresses, card parties and suppers and genteel raillery and a touch of social anxiety — is familiar literary ground. And no house is more familar and comforting than Longbourn, home to Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. But what goes on behind the scenes? Who irons those dresses and prepares those suppers?

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Books News & Features
2:32 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Did The Cat Eat Your Gymsuit? Then These Books Are For You

Lizzie Skurnick wrote several books in the Sweet Valley High series. Her new imprint aims to celebrate and preserve classic young adult books from the 1930s through the 1980s.
Ig Publishing

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 8:09 pm

Young adult literature is big business right now; bookstores and movie theaters are full of titles like The Hunger Games, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.

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Author Interviews
5:03 am
Sat August 31, 2013

Questions For Hugh Howey, Author Of 'WOOL'

Hugh Howey self-published the original WOOL novella in 2011. It has since grown to become a best-selling phenomenon.
Amber Lyda

After a varied career as a computer repairman and yacht captain, Hugh Howey turned his hand to writing. He'd self-published several novels and stories when the sci-fi dystopia WOOL, originally just a novella, found sudden runaway success in 2011. Howey found himself writing sequel after sequel to keep up with reader demand — the latest volume, Dust, was released in August.

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Books News & Features
12:22 pm
Sun August 18, 2013

Fans Are Like Friends To 'Reigning Queen' Of Women's Fiction

Debbie Macomber's latest book is Rose Harbor in Bloom.
Deborah Feingold

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 4:12 pm

Go to your nearest paperback rack, and odds are, you'll see two or three, or four, or — well, a lot of books by Debbie Macomber, an author The Sacramento Bee has dubbed "the reigning queen of women's fiction."

Macomber has 170 million books in print; the newest, Rose Harbor in Bloom, has just been released. Her publisher, Random House, celebrated Macomber's selling power earlier this month with a fan retreat at the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville, where 400 women gathered for a weekend of tea, knitting and literary friendship.

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Author Interviews
4:30 am
Sat July 27, 2013

What If The X-Men Were Real? Q&A With Marcus Sakey, Author Of 'Brilliance'

What if the X-Men were real? And what if they weren't mutants in spandex, but people like you and me and Bob in accounting, just endowed with superhuman talents for things like pattern recognition, programming and strategy?

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NPR Story
5:03 am
Tue June 11, 2013

School's Out: 5 Great Summer Reads For Teens

Andrew Bannecker

Originally published on Tue June 11, 2013 9:48 am

I'm surrounded here at NPR Books by people with sophisticated, grown-up tastes — happy to dive into the latest Claire Messud or Daniel Alarcon or James Salter. Meanwhile, give me — any day — a book about teenagers (and preferably dragons). A good YA novel is a polished gem of solid storytelling, but more than that, it draws us back in time to the teenagers we once were — or never were, or wanted desperately to be.

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Book Reviews
5:01 am
Thu June 6, 2013

'Cinnamon And Gunpowder': Haute Cuisine On The High Seas

Food porn and rip-roaring pirate adventure are two great tastes that taste great together in Eli Brown's rollicking Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Owen Wedgwood is the brilliant but rather prissy chef to shipping magnate Lord Ramsey — until privateer captain "Mad Hannah" Mabbot shoots Ramsey at point-blank range and takes Wedgwood prisoner, charging him to earn his keep by preparing her one magnificent dinner a week, using only the ingredients he can find on her ship, the Flying Rose.

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Author Interviews
6:33 am
Mon May 27, 2013

Questions For Barbara J. King, Author Of 'How Animals Grieve'

iStockphoto.com

Attributing human characteristics to animals makes for great cartoons, but it's not usually considered rigorous science. Now, a new book argues that animals do think and feel in ways similar to humans.

Barbara J. King is a professor of anthropology and a commentator on NPR's science blog, 13.7. And her book, How Animals Grieve, makes a powerful case for the presence of love, affection and grief in animals — from a house cat mourning her lost sister to elephants who pay respects to the bones of their matriarchs.

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