Tuesday, 8 July 2014
In conversation with Peter Clenott
Today we welcome the funny, talented and multi published, Peter Clenott! He is going to share with us some of his experiences and insights into the writing world.
Tell us a little about your writing journey.
I had no idea I wanted to be a writer until after I graduated college. After taking my last exam, I sat down with notebook, pencils and an eraser and began writing a science fiction novel. That was in May 1973. The journey has been a long one, sidetracked for a while into screenplay writing before a return to novels. I have been repped by various agents, written almost every literary agency in the country and been turned down by the best (more than once in many cases). Finally in 2008 I sent my novel HUNTING THE KING to a small Canadian press called Kunati and was at long lost rewarded with a contract. The journey continues.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
I enjoy disappearing into other worlds. It’s a wonderful escape for the writer as well as the reader.
What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
Promotion. The journey to publication is hard enough. Then, once you’ve made it, you realize that the work has just begun. No matter how good your novel may be, no one will know it exists unless you push it. I started writing in an era when there was no internet. Writers had to promote but not the way they do today, and I must admit I’m not very good at it.
How much research goes into your story?
For DEVOLUTION I needed to know a variety of things well chimpanzees culture, experimentation done on chimps to teach them sign language, the history of the Congo, the native flora and fauna of the region. I find that the research often leads to plot lines or interesting scenes.
Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?
There are definitely elements of personal experience that go into the writing of a novel. In creating the character of Chiku Flynn, I borrow from my experience as a parent. Chiku grows into her teenage years in Boston, so I used my own experiences living in that city to draw a realistic landscape.
Tell us about your publications?
I have written many novels. The first published novel was HUNTING THE KING featuring archaeologist Molly O’Dwyer. Molly is both an ardent seeker of the truth, a scientist intrigued by the world of the past, and a loyal Catholic. In HUNTING, Molly is recruited to go on a dangerous dig in the midst of the Iraqi conflict to search for the remains of Jesus. This expedition not only puts her physical being in jeopardy but creates conflict between the scientist who monomaniacally pursues the truth and the Catholic who fears what will become of her faith if she discovers the physical remains of Christ.
THE HUNTED came out this year. Suyape Goncalves, the hero, is born in the Amazon rainforest to a tribe of indigenous people called the Ipanao. They have been in hiding in the South American jungle for millennia. When they are finally brought to light and to the nearest medical facility, a troubling discovery is made. There is something wrong with their DNA. In the language of her people, Suyape means ‘she remembers’, and what Suyape remembers may be the difference between the survival or the extinction of the human race.
DEVOLUTION is about a girl who grows up with chimpanzees in the African jungle. She nests with them, grooms them and has no issues taking a twig, sticking it in the ground and licking off the termites and ants she uncovers. After her mother dies tragically, she is sent back to civilization where she grows into a maladjusted teenager. It is only after her father disappears that she returns to the jungle and to her true family. In Swahili, Chiku means ‘chatterbox’. But to the chimpanzees of the rainforest, with whom she can communicate using sign language, she is known simply as Talk Talk.
What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?
I’m not sure that anything surprises me anymore. I guess I never realized how much self-promotion I would have to do. After HUNTING THE KING was published, I got so fed up with it that I laid the promotion aside and wrote another novel.
Top tip/s for writers.
Don’t be afraid to have your work critiqued. Don’t be afraid to submit it.
Other than writing what else do you love?
My three children, Leah, William and Stephen even when they don’t love me. I enjoy all the local sports teams, sci-fi movies and the theatre. I’m single now, so if any of this appeals to you, too, give me a call.
Who is your favourite author and why?
I have recently found Mario Vargas LLosa, a Peruvian author whose writing is both literate and compelling. FEAST OF THE GOATS and WAR AT THE END OF THE WORLD are two of his novels I highly recommend.
If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island what 5 books would you take?
Anything by Melissa Wray. Anything by me. Any manual on how to build a life raft. A book of NY Times crossword puzzles. Fifty Shades of Grey(To use as kindling)
Five words that sum you up.
Persevering, Creative, Frustrated, Progressive, Funny (looking and otherwise)
How can we learn more?
Thanks for sharing Peter. Best of luck with your work now and into the future!