Peter Thompson grew up in Illinois, and lives near Chicago. He remembers how excited he was when the first astronaut stepped on to the moon. He has had an appreciation of space, and all its possibilities ever since. His love of children’s books developed while reading to his three sons. His first novel, Living Proof, was a thriller published by Berkeley Books. Summer on Earth is his first book for younger readers. It will be released in August of this year.
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Thanks for letting us interrogate you! Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?
I have always loved to read, but never thought I was able to write. When I did start to write fiction, it all started out as a joke. I was out with my three brothers when my youngest brother, Dan, told us he was going to write a kid’s book. He already had the title picked out - A Monkey for Cousin Larry. That sounded kind of funny, and we asked what it was going to be about. He hadn’t thought that far ahead, he said, but maybe it would have something to do with a monkey being up in a tree and throwing bananas at people, or something like that.
A few months later, my brothers and I were at a family gathering, and one of us asked Dan how his book was going. He still hadn’t started it, but with a great title like that, he didn’t think it would be hard to write at all. After hearing this several more times over the next months, my brother Greg and I decided we would “help” Dan (it’s a brother thing), by writing our own versions of the book. So, Greg and I started writing stories, each titled A Monkey for Cousin Larry, and sending them to Dan in the mail. We came up with a couple of dozen stories all together. One was a children’s story, but we also wrote mystery, horror, a poem, a romance, and one that read pretty much like Google directions. Dan didn’t appreciate our help, and he never got around to writing the story. But we had a great time with this joke, and I realized that I really enjoyed writing. After that, I started writing regularly, and I can’t imagine not writing now.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
Unless you are a famous author like Stephen King or JK Rowling, there aren’t a lot of perks. I don’t get recognized and upgraded in restaurants, and nobody has come up to me on the street and asked for an autograph. The biggest joy for me is that people are reading what I write. I love it when someone reaches out and emails me about how much they loved the story, or asks me questions about my characters or is interested in what happens to them after the book is finished. Being read is the highest compliment an author can get.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
This is my second published book, and both were published traditionally, though in much different ways. My first novel, Living Proof, a fast-paced, paranoid thriller, was published 14 years ago as a mass market release by Berkley Books. I wrote this quickly and it was picked up by an agent and a publisher within the first year of my finishing the first draft. My new novel, Summer on Earth, took a lot longer. I wrote most of the book very quickly, but I got stuck on the end. I ended up putting the book away, and didn’t look at it again for well over a year. When I finally picked it up again, I knew where I was going, and I finished it quickly. That was the first draft, though, and it has been re-written extensively since then. It took longer to find an agent this time, it then took her a while to find the right publishing house. It turned into a marathon, but I am happy with the way it has come out, and I think it was worth the wait.
What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry?
I have been to a number of writer’s conferences, and met a lot of editors, the gatekeepers to the industry. To a large extent they are twentysomethings, just a few years out of school. The publishing industry is turning into the movie industry. They are looking for blockbusters and they want something like whatever the latest big hit is.
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?
I have been very lucky, because my family is very supportive, and they are my biggest fans.
How about the social networks? Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?
I wish I was better at social media. I do Twitter because the publishing industry is so active there, but I am not a natural with this, and should be doing more. I know how important Facebook is, but I am just getting my toes wet with this now.
Book sales. Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)? How are you making the sales happen for you?
My book is a newer release, so I am still waiting for reports on how it is doing. I have been getting great reviews, and the people who have reached out to me have told me how much they enjoyed the book, so I am hopeful. To make sales happen, I am continually giving out books to libraries, independent book sellers and book bloggers for reviews. I am looking at this as a long-term process, and I know it can take time to find the audience.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
Don’t judge a book by its figurative cover. Summer on Earth is labeled as a kid’s book, but I think the themes and story are universal. I recently met with a book club that read this as their book of the month, and they, all adult women, loved the book and told me how it made them laugh and cry, and they felt for the characters.
Okay, too much sugar for you today! Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in. Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?
I was a writer before I was an author, so it is a great feeling. Finishing a novel gives me a real sense of accomplishment, and seeing the book in print, with a copy you can hold in your hands is a very cool thing. I haven’t seen my name on the best seller’s list, yet. But that is my next goal. I will continue to write and hope that people keep reading what I write. It is part of who I am, and I love to share my stories with the world.