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

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The following intro is obviously unnecessary here at The Rabbit Room, but it was included at my website –when I originally posted this there— because some of my readers don’t know that Pete is a wrestling phenom. And by wrestling I mean attacking innocent people who were minding their own business. -Sam

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 Christian 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/At/Behind? The Rabbit Room.


26 Comments

  1. Jaclyn

    I eagerly await the day when I can lose track of time in the Rabbit Room Press section of my local bookstore.

    Thank you so much, Pete, for explaining the value in reading slowsly. When I was a little girl I could read novels in a day, but as I got older, it seemed I read slower and slower compared to other people. This always embarrassed me. Until now I never made the connection between my slower pace and my increasing desire to soak up every beautiful detail and marinate in the story world. I’m also better at picking intricate books that invite a close, careful read.

    Hope your rug burn feels better soon, SD!

  2. SarahN

    Pete–
    I love how you talk about appreciating the sound and the mystery of words. I think even prose should read like a kind of poetry. I, too, read the same passage in a book over and over again just to savor the way that the words and sentences work together as a beautiful whole. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  3. Deb

    My husband and I have so enjoyed your writing! I’m excited about Rabbit Room Press and looking forward to consuming more from them in the years ahead. In our vast library system one of the key ways I search for books is by publisher. I’m occasionally disappointed that I trusted a certain publisher again…but rarely. Thanks for holding that bar high!

  4. Jess

    I am going to have to try Taco Bell Chili-Cheese Burritos someday. I need to feed my gnome something that makes me as good a writer than A.S. Peterson. Rabbit Room Press forever! Keep the rabbit stamps. The rabbit stamps alone could eventually force me to buy every single book the Rabbit Room ever sells. About reading… it depends on the book for me. Many times I read quickly so that I know the story, then I go back, read it again, and savor the words themselves because my brain is not too busy wondering what is going to happen next. Other times, though, I will read it slowly the first time and maybe come back to it a year or two later. And OTHER times, I read quickly because I am so bored that I want to get it over with. And EVEN OTHER times I put down the book and never pick it back up because I want to waste my time reading something that is worth wasting my time. 🙂 Hmm, somehow I don’t remember anyone asking me my reading habits. Whoops. 😉

  5. Tenika Dye

    Thanks for the interview SD! I always enjoy a “behind the scenes” look at my favorite things.
    Thanks Pete for your words- they resonated with me- were encouraging and insightful.
    Keep up the excellence!
    🙂

  6. Jesse D

    Pete, you’ve convicted me. I’m a speed reader, and your skepticism over those who do so taking the time to enjoy and ruminate on what they’re reading is warranted. I skim whole pages quite often, and as a result, I think I often miss a lot. I resolve henceforth to slow down my consumption; I think it will improve my own writing if I pay greater attention to how others craft their work.

    I’d be interested in hearing more about your forays into independent publishing, too. I’m one of those who has always had the dream of being a writer but has been too afraid to try. I just finished a novel for the first time, though, and am researching my options on what to do next. Although anyone who lives for anything Taco Bell may not really have anything worthwhile to say…

  7. Shostagirl

    Pete-
    I think you should know that I think you are succeeding with your goals for the Rabbit Room already. I have discovered books, music, and art here that I would not have pursued otherwise and really loved each discovery.
    Thank you!

  8. Canaan Bound

    Thanks, Pete! I, too, am a slow reader, and I’ve always been embarassed to admit it. But I can identify with you on wanting to hear the rhythm and cadence of each line, or reading twice to soak up every last glorious detail.

    And thanks, SD. You’ve humored us with a great interview, once again!

  9. Peter Br

    Add another “huzzah” for your vision of the Rabbit Room press.

    A fellow word-muncher approves.

  10. Hannah

    I place all my hopes on one thing: that my book, as soon as it’s done, will be worthy of being published through Rabbit Room Press.

  11. Witmer

    I like very much your concept for Rabbit Room press, and look forward to seeing it develop.

    A book you may want to consider for the Rabbit Room store is Michael Card’s “Scribbling in the Sand.” His writing and conclusions have been inspiring and are, I think, in line with the values we share.

  12. Paula Shaw

    If this gets posted twice, don’t blame me. It messed up the first time, and I’m not sure why. Here it is again:

    EPIC WESTERN, PETE. EPIC WESTERN!

  13. Goodgame

    Great interview, guys. Fiddlers Green and Fiddlers Gun are two fantastic books, and they are the kind of stories I like to read – great characters, and fast paced but also filled with enriching detail. And I confess to being a quick reader… sometimes in a particularly suspenseful scene I’ll scan and skip ahead to the resolution of the action, before going back and reading the sentences preceding.

    Thank you Pete, for contributing this timeless story to the world. My wife has almost finished Fiddlers Green, and she’s taking her time with it because she doesn’t want it to end.

    Can’t wait for whatever comes next!

  14. Aaron Alford

    Come to Canada, sit in a Taco Bell, and slowly read books while enjoying a delicious Fries Supreme. Your heart will thank you. I mean, the one inside your soul.

  15. anna

    I’m three days and half way through Fidd;er’s Green – I’ll happily admit that I read Fiddler’s Gun in a day, but my hubby was still on Christmas holidays, so I didn’t have quite as much fielding-the-kidlets to do. 😉 I’m usually a quick reader, but even with Fiddler’s Gun, I found myself reading it because I was enjoying the writing, not just because I was enjoying the story. I think there’s a big difference.

  16. PaulH

    I am trying to save all the change I find in various sofas and lobbies to have enough to finish Phin’s story.Can’t wait to get a hold of Fiddler’s Green.

    Pete, I understand or it has been at least hinted to the public that you have a very unique perspective; wisdom per se. Ever thought of writing done your “Pete-isms” and observations in a collection book?

  17. Aaron Roughton

    I witnessed the takedown. It was no small feat, given S.D.’s former career as a pro wrestling announcer. But Pete made it look easy. Really easy. Really, really, really ridiculously easy.

    Thanks for the interview S.D. And thanks for the Rabbit Room and all you do Pete.

    By the way, my kids got their copy of The Rise And Fall of Mount Majestic the other day and were so excited that it had the Rabbit Room Press stamp like Daddy’s books!

  18. Sondorik

    Hip, hip, huzzah for Rabbit Room Press! Didn’t Taco Bell used to have a “Run For the Border” slogan? In keeping with this theme, Pete could satisfy his gnome and his fans by crafting an epic western. I’m wondering if this creative community can come up with a worthy tagline to help RRP establish its place in the publishing world. My first thought was “Rabbit Room Press: Proficient Breeder of Fine Books.” Surely someone can improve greatly on that…

  19. Aaron Alford

    I really appreciate articles like this one about the creative process, and how it relates specifically to the writing craft. Are there any plans for a kind of, well, Rabbit Room corner of the Rabbit Room? A place where writers can share stories (or whatever it is they’re working on) and hear some constructive discussion from people they trust? I’m starved for that. (My best friends are creative, but mostly of the musical variety!)

  20. Leigh Mc

    Good questions! And I’m so glad to hear Stephen King’s book mentioned here. People usually turn up their noses when I recommend it for writers, but honestly it’s one of the best “insider” books on the subject of writing that I’ve read, weirdly positioned on my bookshelf next to #1: Dorothy Sayers’ “Mind of the Maker.”

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