Thursday, March 4, 2010

Author interview: A.S. Peterson

I'm happy to announce that the author of The Fiddler's Gun, A.S. Peterson, kindly agreed to an interview. If you are one of my regular readers you probably have noticed how I gushed over Peterson's debut novel(if not then you can read my review here).

So without further ado I welcome you to Escape in a book's first author interview!

First of all can you tell us a little about yourself (what do you do when your not writing, any hobbies?)? I for one am particularly interested in knowing how much Scandinavian blood that runs through your veins, I’m sorry the genealogist in me is just taking over!
First of all, thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure to talk to new people and especially folks in the "old country", in Scandinavia. My great grandparents immigrated to Massachusetts (US) from Kalmar, Sweden about a hundred years ago and one of these days I hope to get the chance to go back "home" and visit. My brother has been there a few times and always comes home with great stories about his trip. I'd love to go and find some stories of my own. Maybe I'd get a good Viking book out of it, who knows.

When I'm not busy writing I'm generally busy trying to grow the Rabbit Room as a community. We've got a lot of gifted people involved there and one day we'd like to have our own little coffee tavern and bookstore here in Nashville, Tennessee. I think we are slowly moving in that direction but it's a long process.

Outside of work, I really enjoy woodworking. I've built a couple of wooden canoes and even built my own fiddle as I was writing the book. It was a lot of fun and I felt almost like the woodcraft was a part of the writing process itself. The experience of building a musical instrument and a seaworthy vessel definitely informed my ability to write about those things. One of these days I hope to have time to build my own sailboat. That might be wishful thinking, though.

For potential new readers can you please describe your debut novel The Fiddler’s Gun with a few sentences?

It's a historical adventure about a willful young woman who gets caught up in the American Revolution. It's a bit of romance, a few drops of humor, a good deal of historical drama, maybe some Greek-style tragedy, and even a swashbuckling pirate's tale. It's safe to say that it covers a lot of territory and just about anyone will find something about it to enjoy.

Thematically, it's about the choices we make and how they chart the course of our lives. That's where the book gets its title. Fin Button, the main character, inherits a fiddle and a gun and her story can be seen as a constant struggle to decide which of those instruments she'll choose to let define her life.

In a previous interview you mentioned that you haven’t had any particular interest in the period around the Revolutionary war and that after writing a while on The Fiddler’s Gun you went to Georgia to do research for your book. What were the most interesting discoveries you did while you were in Georgia and did those things change the planned course of your story?

When I began writing the book I had a vague idea of the setting and time period. I didn't have many details worked out yet. All I knew was that it began in an orphanage near Savannah, Georgia in the late 18th or early 19th century. After writing a couple of chapters and realizing how much research I needed to do, I decided to start by finding out a little about the history of orphanages in America. Well, to my great surprise, I learned that the oldest orphanage in the country was in Savannah, Georgia right where I had set my story and invent my own orphanage. I couldn't believe it.

So a week or two later I drove up to see it and that visit really cemented the place in my mind: the look of it, the order of it, the smells and textures. Several characters in the book were vaguely based on portraits in the museum there and many of the names are taken directly from the historical register of the town's citizens.

I don't know that the visit changed the course of the story but the providential nature of the the discovery certainly helped to assure me that I was on the right track.

Your manuscript was submitted to some of the really big publishers and some of them liked The Fiddler’s Gun but they found it difficult to pin it down in to just one genre and target it for a specific audience. So instead of changing Fin’s voice you chose to publish your debut novel by way of independently publishing. The Fiddler’s Gun is the first independent novel I’ve ever read and I don’t think it will be the last. What have you learned from this whole process from submitting your manuscript to deciding to publish your book independently?

Wow, that's about four questions in one! Yes, we did submit it to quite a few of the big publishing houses and they all had kind things to say about it. I think one editor even claimed that they were 'almost fatally in love with it" But in the end they all said no, and it came down to the fact that it's a difficult book to classify. It's not quite romance, or historical fiction, or adventure, or young adult, or women's lit. It's a little bit of all those things. At first you'd think that was a good thing, and in many ways it is, but from a business perspective it just makes it hard to know how to sell it. Most publishers need to be able to say "this book is definitively paranormal romance" or "historical fiction" or "urban fantasy" and I completely understand that. A lot of self-publishers are bitter about the way the industry works; I'm not. It works that way for a reason.

A lot of people might have put the book away and gone off to write something more easily marketable but I, and the people who had read it, felt like it was just too good a book to put away and forget about. So my brother and I, who had been developing the Rabbit Room community for a couple of years decided to let that evolve into our own publishing house. So we did all the legwork, made the contacts we needed, and figured out how to publish a solid professional book that would be equal to anything else on the shelf in a bookstore. In the end we learned a lot. It's a complicated business. But I've loved every minute of it. We're are working on the next couple of Rabbit Room Press titles right now and I'm excited about them.

If I’m correct the second and last installment about Fin Button, The Fiddler’s Green, is due in December this year. Will we be seeing more of A.S. Petersons work in the years to come(I for one certainly hope so)?

You are correct that Fiddler's Green will be the conclusion of Fin's story. I think of the first book as being about getting lost and I'm looking forward to finishing the next one because, in my mind, it's about finding your way home again and I really look forward to bringing resolution to Fin's story.

I hope there will be many more books to come. I have a young adult book that's about half-written and I'm excited about getting back to work on it when I've said my final goodbye to Fin. I think it's going to be great and I can't wait for people to read it. That's definitely still a few years off, though. I guess only time will tell. Right now I'm focused on trying to get the word out about The Fiddler's Gun and I'm incredibly grateful for people like you who have read it and then gone the extra mile to review it and tell other people how much you enjoyed it.

Word of mouth is the best thing a book can have and I appreciate all the support I've gotten from book bloggers. You guys are my heroes.

Is there a question you wished you had been asked in an interview?

I would love to point out that I've put together a great package of extras for any book club that wants to read the book. If anyone is interested they can contact my via my website at and I can set their club up with custom bookmarks, special book pricing, a discussion guide, and free digital copies of a companion book called The Fiddler's Gun: Letters. I think it's a book well-suited to clubs because it offers a lot of points for discussion.

Once again, thanks for having me here on the blog, Mari. And thanks for reading. You honor me with your time.

Want to learn more about A.S. Peterson and his writing? Check out these interviews:

Thank you so much for answering all of my questions, Pete! I really enjoyed reading your answers and getting to know you a bit better. My dear readers, I hope you'll check out The Fiddler's Gun! Do come by tomorrow as A.S. Peterson has kindly offered a copy of his book and a copy of a collection called The Fiddler's Gun: Letters(note: that Letters are printed in a limited run of 100 signed and numbered copies) for a giveaway here at Escape in a book. As always the contest will be international.