Lynn Neary

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The Library of Congress today named Tracy K. Smith as the nation's new poet laureate. NPR's Lynn Neary spoke with her about her new role.

Murder. For writer Anthony Horowitz, that's where it all starts. He says everyone is fascinated by murder — just look at Foyle's War, his BBC mystery series. The show is set in the U.K. during World War II, but that wasn't its selling point.

"If I had gone to the BBC and said I wanted write about, I don't know, the social history of 1940 to '47, they would have probably said no," Horowitz explains. "When I said, 'I've got a whole series of terrific murders which take place in that time,' they opened the door."

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Novelist Ann Brashares' parents divorced when she was young. "It wasn't an amicable split ..." she says, "And in some way the divisions just kept going, even to this day they do." Those experiences inspired Brashares — who wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series — to write her new novel, The Whole Thing Together.

Many people are drawn to Emily Dickinson because of her mysterious life — the brilliant poet rarely left her family home in Amherst, Mass., and her work wasn't recognized until after her death.

But British film director Terence Davies says it was her poetry, more than her personal life, that drew him in. Davies discovered Dickinson on television. An actress was reading one of her poems and afterwards Davies immediately ran out to buy one of her collections.