Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Q&A with 'Summer on Earth' Peter Thompson

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.




Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work in the mortgage business, and have for over twenty-five years. My workday is based on logic, numbers and problem solving. I love the people I work with and enjoy what I do, but it is not a creative job. When I’m not working I try and feed that side of my mind more. I do write every day, but I also paint, mostly abstract, and I really enjoy the process. I am also very health focused, and travel is another joy and priority.

When did you start writing?
I started writing in my early thirties, almost 30 years ago. It started out as a joke. My youngest brother, Dan, kept talking about a kid’s story he was going to write, and he was going to call it, A Monkey for Cousin Larry. He mentioned it a number of times and thought the title was hysterical, but never wrote anything. Another brother and I decided to help him, by writing our own versions of the story and sending them to him (it’s a brother thing). All together we wrote about 25 stories, one was a kid’s story but we also had a mystery, a poem, some science fiction, a horror story and one that read a lot like Google directions. We had a great time doing this, the stories were passed around and people enjoyed them. Dan never wrote the story, but I learned that I enjoyed writing and people liked what I wrote.  

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

After I had been writing for a while, mostly short stories and a few screenplays, I had an idea for a novel. I joined a local writer’s group and started writing. The story really flowed, and I would write pages during the week and then reading it to the group. I really learned a lot through the group, both by their critique and thoughts on what I wrote, and by analyzing what others wrote. I gained a lot of confidence in my writing through the group and they really took to the story. It took me about a year and a half to finish it, and then I started sending it out, looking for an agent. Within a year of finishing the novel I had an agent and a book contract. The novel was a thriller, Living Proof, and it was released as a mass market paperback by a division of Penguin Putnam.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

I visited Peru last year and I fell in love with the mountains and the culture there. One of my fantasies is to go back there and spend about six months in a little village, writing every day, hiking around the mountains and immersing myself in the area.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?
I would try and write more, of course. But I would also try and spend more time outdoors. I have a desk job and spend too much time inside, sitting with fluorescent lights and temperature control. Getting outside and enjoying nature recharges me, and I would want to spend some of that time taking long walks.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

That’s a good question, I’m not sure. I have an idea for a time travel book that would be set partially in Florence Italy in the middle ages. I think that would be a fun to do research there, and I would love to visit, to get a sense of what the area really feels like now.

Back to your present book, Summer on Earth, how did you publish it?

I published this traditionally. I found an agent who loved the book, and she found the publisher. It is exciting to have the validation of having someone want to publish your book, and paying to do it. I can see a lot of advantages with e-publishing, though, and I will try that with a future book.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?
Not really. The story is set in a small Midwestern farm town, a place way out in the boonies. I grew up as a city kid and I live in the Chicago area. I haven’t spent a lot of time on farms, but I have been through some places in Iowa where it seemed like another world. There was corn growing everywhere and the towns were a throw back in time. When I got the idea for my novel, that setting just seemed to be the right fit.  

Why was writing Summer on Earth so important to you?

Well, for one thing, I think it is a great story and I felt compelled to get it out. Also, I wrote this story after my wife had died, and I think it was a way of dealing with my grief. The book is about a young boy, Grady, whose father has died, and his family is having a hard time getting by. His life changes when a shipwrecked alien lands on their farm and takes on human form while he tries to fix his space craft. When the alien, who they call Will, comes to understand the concept of money and that the family doesn’t have enough of it, he tries to help by creating a money tree. Things don’t work out like he expects. The novel is science fiction, but I think the emotions are real. Both the sense of loss and the feelings of joy were things I was going through, and I think it was therapeutic for me to write it. I’m really glad that this book is out in the world and readers are reading it and enjoying it. 

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

I get ideas from everywhere. I have gotten story ideas from dreams, TV interviews, snatches of overheard conversation and just playing games of What if. I have notebooks filled with ideas to be turned into stories. The ideas are easy. Finding the right character with the right need, and turning them into living breathing people that I am compelled to write about, that is the hard part. I have a lot of books that I have started, but haven’t finished, yet.

Any final words?
Thanks for having me here, this has been fun.

Author: Peter Thompson
Publisher: Persnickety Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Sci-fi / Middle Grade

The night that eleven-year-old Grady Johnson looked out his window and wished upon a shooting star, his life changed forever.

Grady, his Ma, and younger sister Luanne are having a hard summer. Dad has died and the family isn’t the same. Though Ma is trying her best, Grady knows they don’t have enough money to get by.

The shooting star he saw was a space craft plunging to Earth, and landing at the back of their farm. Extraterrestrial engineer Ralwil Turth has one goal, to fix his power drive and go back home. But things don’t go as planned. Stuck in human form, he gets to know Grady and his family as he works on their farm. He starts to learn about what it means to be human, and the exotic charms of this planet like the taste of potatoes, and how amazing bugs are.

Ralwil grows to care for Grady and his family. On a trip to town, he realizes that money is what matters to humans, and is the cause of the family’s trouble. That night, he uses his technology to combine a twenty-dollar bill with an oak twig. Over the next week this grows to a towering tree, every leaf a twenty-dollar bill. This, Ralwil is sure, will solve all the family’s problems.

But the family’s wealth raises suspicion in this small town, and this soon leads to more trouble. With the family’s fate, and Ralwil’s life, on the line, Grady has to find the courage to help his family and save his friend.

Summer on Earth blends humor, adventure and poignancy to create an unforgettable story about finding home.


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