Author Interview: Peter Spano

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

My debut novel is based on my life; all the characters are people I know. I believe getting my story our benefited all mentioned.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Be a major league baseball player. I can’t write a story, or even a letter without referring to baseball. I often find myself using terms such as “ watch out for the third strike” or don’t get fooled by curveballs” life throws at you, etc.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I came up with the title “ A Shadow at Winter’s Fall” based on an event that happened on the first night of winter. I have come to learn I am one of a small group of people who refer to the first evening of a season as that seasons “fall”. I had always assumed everybody used the term. “ Winter’s fall” means the first time night falls after winter solstice.

If you could be a character in one of your favorite books, who would you be?

I am one of the two main characters in my debut novel.

How do you process and deal with negative book reviews?

It is to be expected, such reviews are usually left by people who don’t understand what they chose to read, and resort to negative commentary to deal with the frustration of how their intellectual inferiority found them unprepared to read what they selected. I don’t pay attention to reviews, I am not going to please everybody .

If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?

I am, my current work in progress , “ Our Letters, Our Lies” picks up where my debut novel ended. It is to be an exchange of hand-written letters between the two main characters; as the attempt to reconcile a tumultuous past from the emotional security of being physically distant. My aim is to write ‘ Our Letters, Our Lies” so that readers of my first novel will be able to read it as a sequel, yet also to produce a manuscript that can be read by new readers and have it stand on its own . It is a challenge.

Name an underappreciated novel that you love.

“Europa: The Days of Ignorance” by Robert Briffault ( 1935) . I return to it every few years.

What’s your writing software of choice?

I believe far too many authors spend too much time with so-called “writing programs”. As well, I don’t see the value in any of them. I write with a pencil in a marble “composition” notebook. All an author needs is a good pencil and eraser. I see comments from others about particular programs and how they use it for “ development” and how they would be lost without it , etc. I keep my laughs to myself. If one is writing ( and I will reiterate, I ‘ write’ , as opposed to ‘typing’) their story and can’t remember names or scenes, one should not be wasting their time in the author game. I find it humorous to read comments on social media from so-called “ authors” who produce at 75K word manuscript as to how they would be “ lost” with this or that program. I would contend those people were “ lost” when they started and remained lost when they finished. Writing a novel is not compiling a multi volume anthology with footnotes/reference notes. They aren’t compiling the next Library of Alexandria, they( well most of them) are writing novels that cater to the lowest intellectual common denominator. ) I would say most of these so-called ‘ authors’ just suffer from a lack of focus, and spend far too much time on social media. They are on social media talking about chairs, desk sizes, fonts, and a host of other things that are completely inane. We humans have been writing by hand for centuries, some of the greatest works produced were written by hand. I am good with my ‘composition’ book.

When did you first call yourself a writer?

I don’t refer to myself as a “ writer”. I use the term “ author”. Any sports beat reporter can ‘write’ a summary of a ball game, any cub reporter can write a story ( who, what , when , where, etc). They are ‘writing’ but they are not creating. An author creates. There are technical writers, sports writers, celebrity gossip column writers. These people are not authors; they do not create, they just write. I believe if an author wants to be taken seriously one has to take themselves seriously and stop referring to themselves as “ writers”. When I whip up a quick meal for myself, sure I am ‘cooking’, but that does not make me a chef. I am merely engaged in the act of cooking. A chef creates dishes; me tossing pasta in a pot of water does not make me a chef. Words have meaning. We need to pay attention to the meaning of words. When I see on a social media profile “ I am a writer”, it is a challenge to have respect for such people. If one does not know what they are doing, why would I take them seriously? I usually do not.

Whom do you trust for objective and constructive criticism of your work?

As most people I have a trusted circle of people I can reach out to and bounce off variations of the same paragraph. However, at the end of the day, what goes in to the final product is my decision. As I often say- Van Gogh never gave the brush to an onlooker and said “ here, put the paint where you believe it should go”. He never did that because he was creating his art. My responsibility is to create mine.


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