It’s launch week for Personal Effects, and it is also launch week for my friend and fellow Authoress Anonymous Success Storier Peter Salomon. I’m thrilled to start the week by celebrating the launch of Peter’s book!
Peter is a member of the Horror Writers Association, the Authors Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He has served as a judge for the Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writers Contest, and on the executive committee of the Boston and New Orleans chapters of Mensa. He graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with a bachelor’s degree in theater and film studies, and now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his family.
Peter’s debut YA novel, Henry Franks, launched over the weekend, published by Flux. Henry Franks has been described as a dark, psychological thriller, about a boy’s search for himself. But from the cover copy and reviews, it is clear that it straddles multiple genres, mixing mystery with thriller with horror, oozing creepiness. (You can read more about Henry Franks at www.henry-franks.com).
I’m so glad that Peter suggested we interview each other when we discovered that we would debut in the same week. And then he graciously answered my questions on the fly when time caught up with us (ie, my pre-launch “to do” list got overwhelming).
As a kid, what were your reading habits? How, if at all, did they shape what you now write?
I really love this question! I would read everything and anything I could get my hands on. Cereal boxes, magazines, anything. Mostly I would read Science Fiction and Fantasy (especially Fantasy) curled up in one of the hideously ugly but unbelievably soft and comfortable YELLOW (yes, yellow) chairs in my parent’s living room, right in front of the window. I’d sit there for hours, reading and just disappearing into the worlds created in all of those books. I was always daydreaming, never paying much attention to anything going on around me…and that most definitely led to writing. I was never really all that big a fan of reality, so escaping into books was the first step into creating my own worlds.
Are you a re-reader? If so, do you have books you return to again and again? Examples?
Not really. BUT (a big but that definitely needs to be capitalized) there are a handful of books I re-read. Admittedly there used to be more, back when I had my huge library of books. For a couple of decades I NEVER borrowed a book from the library, always bought and always kept. This led to moving back in the late 90s where we had around 75 twenty pound boxes of books. Do the math: that’s more than one solid ton of books. We just didn’t have the space to keep them anymore and didn’t have the ability to ever move them again. So we sold them. I was devastated and really miss that giant library. Anyway, when those were all handy (and I kept them alphabetized and everything) I’d re-read more of them because I had them. Now, it’s just the few books I do love enough to buy and keep.
Examples: Replay by Ken Grimwood. A heart-breaking time-travel story that should be read more! Denner’s Wreck by Lawrence Watt-Evans. Science-Fiction novella (it’s pretty short) that creates an entire world with no wasted words and then plays with that creation brilliantly. The Spider series by Michael Gear (pretty much ALL the science fiction by him is absolutely brilliant. Not to take anything away from the wonderful books he writes with his wife which have been far more successful than his sci-fi).
What one thing would you have done differently in journey from non-writer to writer to author?
That’s a heavy-duty difficult question to answer. Whenever I think back and say ‘I wish I had done this…’ or ‘hadn’t done this…’ I circle back to the fear ‘change anything and risk not ending up here: published.’ That made sense in my head before I started typing, I promise. I do wish I had been self-aware enough to have gone to school for writing, not so much for what it would have done for my writing (though that’s there too) but so that I’d now be credentialed enough to be able to teach creative writing, which I’d love to do.
What has been the greatest surprise for you in this pre-publication to publication journey?
The warmth and encouragement and support of fellow authors (published, soon-to-be-published and still hoping to be published). I’ve been overwhelmed at how supportive so many former strangers have been in so many ways.
I was also surprised by just how surreal the different milestones would be: seeing the cover art for the first time, receiving an advanced copy of the book, reading the first review, receiving the first ‘fan letter.’ It’s all been surreal, and I hate overusing that word but nothing else covers just how strange all of that is after 30 years of hoping and dreaming for these moments to happen. Dreams coming true…surreal! Wonderfully surreal.
Your book includes newspaper clippings and some mystery/investigative elements, do you have a journalism background?
No, actually I did try my hand at it once but I much prefer the freedom Fiction gives you to just make things up!!
Henry Franks seems to straddle or blend multiple genres, did that make querying or shopping it complicated? Did you at some point revise or consider revising to make it easier to “shelve”?
For all intents and purposes I never did query Henry Franks. My wonderful agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, was the ‘Secret Agent’ for one of the wonderful Miss Snark’s First Victim contests and she was so impressed by the quality of the entrants that she offered to read queries from MSFV readers. I hadn’t entered the contest because I had just finished editing Henry but figured it was too great of an opportunity to pass up. So, I threw together something approaching a query and emailed it in. Two weeks later, after a request for a full and a long telephone call, I signed with her. The book then went through months and months of revision before the sale but that was more of a ‘fixing what’s wrong with the book’ more than trying to make it easier to ‘shelve.’
Given that Henry Franks is, at least in part, a mystery, did you have to spend time in revision weaving in the clues, or did you plot them out?
I’m a ‘pantser’ (as in: someone who doesn’t outline but writes by the ‘seat of their pants’) and I wasn’t sure how the book would end until I got to the end for the most part. So I then had to go back and make sure it worked, weaving everything together. I’d recommend outlining, it’s a LOT simpler!
What’s next for you with regard to writing?
I have two YA books that I’m working on at the moment, one of which is out on submission and I hope to have the other one going out soon. I also have two Picture Books that I’m working on.
I love the intensity of picture books, where each word is so vital and important. It’s as close as I think I’ll get to publishing poetry and I’ve always loved poetry!
Thank you, Peter, for answering my questions and sharing this wonderful week with me! I’m so excited to see the pictures of Henry Franks on store shelves, and to know it is right now finding its way into the hands of readers. Those of you who haven’t read Henry Franks yet, go check it out at www.henry-franks.com or on Goodreads! And you can follow Peter’s adventures (in writing and otherwise) on twitter and facebook, and at his website.