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Five Questions For: A.S. Peterson, Author of Fiddler’s Green

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 Twitter.

On Facebook.

On The Rabbit Room.

Thanks, Pete.

16 Comments

  1. Okay, so I’m not a super talented writer, however, I have been known to be quite the salesperson, ya know, the kind of person who could sell ice to an eskimo? Yeah, my dad has told me that for years now.

    But, what accomplishment is there in that? There isn’t any, right? So, in learning about the accomplishment of sales, and it also being meaningful, I would like to comment on the topic of the branding. Mr. Peterson is right on. As a consumer who is new to Rabbit Room goods, just hearing your vision of the delightful English looking Rabbit Room Press section made me want to shop. And I am not a shopper.

    Now, I think I shall order his novels to support his cause, and to also see for myself if his gnome is any good at any of this stuff.

  2. My pride made me correct my comment. I meant hearing his vision, not your vision. I’m aware you may have the same vision, but I shall not give you credit for it at this particular time.

  3. It is a big encouragement to know and work alongside someone who cares about craft and beauty as much as Pete Peterson does.

    As for SD Smith, Jamie Buckland had brought up some interesting questions. SD is a man of vision. And taste. And decency. And a common touch that we all appreciate. If he and Pete Peterson don’t share the same vision, it is probably Pete Peterson who should change his vision.

  4. Thanks for this interview Sammy D. I don’t know why, but for some reason I was moved most by Pete’s answer to question 2. I don’t have an idealized vision of what my artist’s life looks like, but I have this idea that all of you real artists (Jonathan and Sam included) sit in the parlors of your benefactors painting and sculpting and writing and singing. I know that’s not true, but it was good to hear Pete encourage those of us with dayjobs. I’ve often thought that the dayjob was an indicator that my art wasn’t good enough to pay. Thanks Pete.

    And I vote western.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys and especially Pete for his anz-wurz.

    I just got back from a long, sei-treacherous drive in some iffy weather and am plum tard.

    But I wanted to say thank you, and especially to thank Jonathan, for the very kind words. It must be those new glasses.

    Aaron, you know me, man. Reg-lee-ur. Day job. Unsuccessful author. Check. Check. Check.

    But I know what you mean. It has been a waker-upper for me to see how many of these fellows and ladies do struggle and work hard in their lives, whether they work a job “outside” their craft, or not. That actually struck me when talking to AP last night (alerts! name drop –er, initial drop). He said something about “yeah, ’cause if I don’t sing the concert, I don’t pay the mortgage.” It reminded me once again that he’s a regular guy, albeit with exceptional gifts, calling, and –it appears to me– work ethic.

    Part of it is just not being lazy, being willing to work super hard, it seems.

    I’m sleepy and it’s 9:22pm. Good night, sweet princes and princesses, flights of angels etc.

  6. Oh, and yeah, Jamie. I think the brand stuff is fascinating as well. Part of me dislikes the word “brand,” but I’m fascinated by what it means and how it can help people serving an audience to connect with them and serve them better (and at the same time being served/supported by that audience). Many of the Rabbit Roomies do that quite well and I’ve loved being on the supporting/serving (those artists) end of that relationship.

    I’m frequently thinking about how to do that well on both sides.

  7. Sweet interview. Can’t wait to see how the RR Press develops in the future, Pete. I still hope to someday read a RR press book inside the RR pub/coffeeshop/bookstore. That would be awesome.

  8. I can agree with branding not always being a good thing, however, it ’tis a very good thing if you have something worth being branded, right?

    And, as far as I’ve seen, Rabbit Room goods are definitely worthy of being branded.

  9. Taco Bell…seriously? Surely Mr. WordSmith Peterson’s gnomes deserve better sustenance than that. I’ve heard tell that gnomes prefer mushrooms, grass, various eggs and an occasional small child.

    Thanks for the great interview! Pete’s love for reading and writing explodes in living color in “Fiddler’s Green”. As someone who hasn’t read a good novel in a very long time, I was convinced by his impressive story telling that “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (C.S. Lewis) Run, don’t walk, to your nearest website and get your own copy-the Rabbit Room is a great place to start: http://www.rabbitroom.com/

    And I second (third? fourth?) the motion that branding the Rabbit Room Press is an excellent idea. Can we come up with a good tagline? Perhaps something like “Rabbit Room Press: Proficient Breeder of Fine Books.”

  10. Like I said, just the thought of the branding worked on me. It was like some mad hypnotics or somethin’. I went straight away to that room of rabbits and ordered both of his novels, a CD from Jason Gray, and a T-shirt.

  11. Sam,

    Thanks much for conducting and sharing this interview with Pete.

    I would have already purchased Fiddler’s Green, but my wife and I aren’t quite done reading Fiddler’s Gun yet … which is only a testament to how little quiet-time we get raising three kids.

    The new year will see my Rabbit Room Press purchase of the sequel, though, and I’m greatly looking forward to it.

    -Robert

  12. Great interview Sam and Pete! The middle school librarian in me votes for Pete’s next book to be the middle grade science fiction novel, since that genre seriously needs good literature and Pete would pull that off well.

  13. Kyle– I agree, man. That’d be nice. If any bookstores still exist, that is.

    Jamie– I think you’re right on.

    Rob– I’m halfway through and it is, so far, in my view, far better than Gun.

    Todd– I know. Pete’s trajectory is exciting. I think his best work is ahead. FG is really impressive.

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