A.S. “Pete” Peterson is a Marine Corp veteran and the author of two novels, The Fiddler’s Gun and Fiddler’s Green. He also is a bit of a pioneer in the fascinating modern world of independent publishing.
Pete is also the brains (and brawn) behind the enormously successful Hutchmoot (the Rabbit Room’s conference/retreat/gathering). Pete has been a force in coordinating the Rabbit Room community and serving that community in many ways. I want to thank Pete for his kindness to me personally and for his ongoing service to the Rabbit Room community in particular and Christians sub-creators and appreciators of sub-creation in general. Also, thanks for that wicked rug-burn I had for months after you tackled and wrestled me to the ground in front of a hundred people.
Get Pete’s book right now, or suffer a similar fate.
Here’s some questions I asked Pete as an expert journalist and part time wrestler.
1. Fiddler’s Green features some excellent writing. Tell us about your theory and method of sentence-crafting and what it means to you to “feed the troll?”
Thanks, Sam. I don’t know that I’ve got a ‘theory of sentence-craft” but words and sentences certainly do sing a kind of music to me that I love to read and therefore love to write. I often find myself having to admit to people that I’m slow reader. I wish sometimes that that weren’t true but the fact is that when I read, I read “aloud” in my head because I want more than just the information a sentence conveys. I want the flavor, rhythm, and sound of it, too. When I read a book I often read sentences and passages multiple times just to appreciate them, especially if it’s a good book. So my love of the sound and mystery of words is such that I find I’m skeptical of people who are quick readers. If a person can read a book in a day, I have to wonder if they are really taking the time and putting in the effort to appreciate what they read. Maybe they do, but consider me a skeptic.
The job of any good writer (and I hope to be one someday) is to pay attention to the way words are put together. It’s not just about what the words are telling the reader, it’s about how they tell the reader. Ideally, every word, every sentence, every paragraph should be working overtime to convey more than one piece of information at once. If I can get a single word to communicate character, theme, and plot all at the same time then I’ve found the correct word and putting together sentences and paragraphs filled with those exactly correct words is what the art of writing is all about.
I think the end of your question is referencing the term “feeding the gnome” which is an idea that Stephen King talks about in his excellent book On Writing. He suggests that every writer has a gnome in the basement that supplies the writer with his stories. To get good stories from him, you’ve got to feed your gnome well. If you don’t feed him at all he might die. So feeding the gnome is about remembering to refuel yourself creatively. It’s about reading. It’s about watching movies. It’s about hiking through the woods and paying attention to the world around you. And it’s also about doing these things well. I could feed my gnome a steady diet of reality TV but guess what kind of stories that gnome is going to hand back to me? Not the kind I want to write, that’s for sure. My gnome is currently looking a little thin. I’ve just come off finishing Fiddler’s Green and haven’t had much time to feed him. I’m looking forward to fattening the ugly little guy up after the first of the year.
2. What has having a community of artists, readers, and other weird people so close by and connected to you meant for you as an author?
Being a part of a thriving artistic community has been invaluable. It’s great to be able to look around and see other people working hard to put beautiful and meaningful things into the world. The best part is seeing the day-to-day reality of it. New artists often have an idealized vision of what it means to live the artist’s life. They imagine it’s having the time and luxury to spend every waking moment pursuing your creation. The reality is that artists are really hard working people–not only working hard at what they are creating, but working hard to support their families, to pay their bills, to survive another month. Very few subsist on their art alone and there’s no shame in having to work a real job. That’s part of the deal. If you aren’t willing to work a nine to five job and pursue your art at the same time then you might be in the wrong business. Being in a community of artists who have worked their entire lives without giving up on what it is they love is a real inspiration for me when I go through periods of feeling like I’m doing it all for nothing. Doing it for nothing is kind of what it’s all about. You’ve got be willing to do it for nothing. You’ve got to love it that much.
3. Describe how your vision for Rabbit Room Press figures into the complex and ever-changing future of publishing and tell us whether or not you’re optimistic about independent publishing?
I think one of the areas where a lot of publishers have let readers down is in their failure to brand themselves, and that’s what I really want to see Rabbit Room Press do. In the film industry the analog is Pixar. People will go to a Pixar film simply because it’s Pixar, because they trust that Pixar knows good stories and will not disappoint. I want to develop a press with that kind of reputation, and I think that’s something that today’s incredibly vast market is hungry for. There’s actually too much choice in the market. I think readers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of product available and they have few ways to discern the good from the bad. The solution to that is to provide an offering of work that’s guaranteed to be good so that if someone enjoys one Rabbit Room Press book, they’ll be comfortable reading another even if it’s outside of the genre they typically read. Twenty years from now I want readers to be able to walk into a book store and head straight for the delightfully English-looking Rabbit Room Press section because they know it’s filled with exotic worlds, and big ideas, and beautiful things. I want the Rabbit Room Press logo on a book’s spine to be an invitation that a reader can’t refuse.
Idealistic? Maybe. But it’s always best to aim high.
4. What is your life for?
My life is for Taco Bell Chili-Cheese Burritos. I die a little every time I enter a Taco Bell that doesn’t serve them. This is my most desperate hour. Save me, Taco Bell. You’re my only hope.
5. Now that Fin’s Revolution is finished, what’s next for A.S. Peterson, author? Can we get a scoop on some future novel possibilities?
I’ve got a few things stewing and I haven’t decided which I want to commit to. One is a sort of middle grade science fiction novel, one is a comedic mystery set in early 20th century St. Louis, and one is an epic western. I’m currently leaning toward the western but I haven’t yet found a way into the story I want to tell. We’ll see.
Sounds excellent, Pete. I vote for St. Louis science fiction and according to a commercial I saw, my vote counts.
Find Pete at his website.
On The Rabbit Room.