Interview with Peter Boody

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
It hasn't. The people looking for books on Smashwords are seeking genre fiction of a certain kind. My books don't fit neatly into genres.
And, er ... Did you say "Success"??? I wouldn't say I've been a success as a novelist, at least not in the sense I've sold thousands of books and gained a following and recognition.
But I do consider as badges of honor the many 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads; the hits I was getting in 2012 mostly on Twitter and on websites, posted by complete strangers saying they'd loved the book; the book's selection as a favorite for 2012 by the Urbana Free Library; its acquisition in 2012 by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's library down the hill from Monticello (the house) and most amazingly the out-of-the-blue inquiry I received by email in August 2013 from a top Beverly Hills agency asking if the film rights were available.
Pretty good response for an obscure, self-published, virtually unpromoted niche novel with very modest sales.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Getting it exactly right. Hitting the nail on the head. Writing one true sentence and going on from there.
What do your fans mean to you?
If I have any, I don't know anything about them. But I'm grateful if they call themselves my fans. Everyone needs to be appreciated. In fact, I'm not sure there is any point in writing anything (other than journal entries) if you don't care about reaching other people and knowing at least some appreciated and enjoyed what you've written.
What are you working on next?
I wish I knew. A lot of scattered assignments. I've written four full-length novels, starting when I was 17 and most recently when I was 59 (but not finished until I was 62). It takes me some time to cook them up.
Who are your favorite authors?
Cheever, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Melville, Salinger, Norman Maclean, Updike, Elizabeth Gilbert.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Food ... and sunshine and a dog that needs a walk.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Getting work done, enjoying my wife, dog and friends' company, awaiting the next meal.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Reviews, publicity, browsing, friends, my wife.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No there were a lot of stories. Can't remember the first. The first one that anyone noticed, however, I do recall. 7th grade, Englewood School for Boys, a story about a bum on the Bowery who carries around a woman's body (I can't remember ... was she alive?) in a hot dog wagon. No idea where that came from or how the story played out. "The Bowery is a dismal place at night" was the first sentence. I won the English Prize for my class because of it ... a book: "Seven Science Fiction Novels of H.G. Wells."
What is your writing process?
Plow through it and then do a lot of rewriting over a long period of time because time changes how you read something. Sometimes it's perfect right off the bat but for longer works there will always be much to fix and tweak and finesse.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No but I do remember reading "The Phantom Tollbooth," loving it and feeling proud I'd read a book with a thick spine. Must have been fifth grade or so? No idea really.
How do you approach cover design?
I ask my wife for help. She was trained as a graphic designer and worked as one for many years.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby, A River Runs Through It, A Farewell to Arms, Huckleberry Finn. Moby Dick should be in there too. None more than the others; all equally great. I am captivated by the power of the narrative voice in these books and I happen to relate to the stories they tell.
What do you read for pleasure?
Lately a lot of history, mostly US.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
iPad.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
None have been very effective. It cost me $100 usually in Facebook clicks before I'd get a sale. Other efforts at promotion --- media coverage, reviews --- stimulated some sales. But my books don't sell much. Not what people are really looking for outside a certain niche.
Describe your desk
I try to keep it neat. I prefer neat. In recent years, entropy seems to have the upper hand.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Tenafly, NJ when it was a totally white Leave It To Beaver suburb and bedroom community of NYC. I think it has a great effect on my writing because it established an early, very limited world view I've both embraced and rejected over and over again.
When did you first start writing?
I remember reading a story to my class in elementary school so I guess it started long ago.
What's the story behind your latest book?
If you mean the premise: Jack Arrowsmith, a middle-aged man in mourning for his late wife and only son, meets the ghost of Thomas Jefferson and takes him off to see America with his son's girlfriend, a beautiful (they are always beautiful, right?) mixed-race graduate student named Rachel Carter -- who turns out to be descended from the Hemings family. When Jefferson becomes more than a ghost -- a flesh and blood man -- Jack and Rachel must figure out how to help him survive in the modern world.

If you mean how did I come to write it: I had quit an insanely demanding job in early 2009 and, as always, wanted to write a novel in whatever free time I had before going back to work somewhere. I had alway been interested in Jefferson, Monticello and American history. Reading the "Hemingses of Monticello" by Annette Gordon-Reed, I was inspired to imagine what it might be like to meet TJ. I had a vision in my head of the first scene. I delved into Jefferson books by the dozens and after months of study and reflection started trying to write the tale with an ever-evolving rough outline. I failed to really get it rolling until my wife and I visited Monticello (hadn't been there since the 1980s) and, after a day together on the mountain, I took the evening tour alone. It was a lovely August evening and it made the scene I'd been hatching in my head come to life. I wrote the rough draft chapter by chapter in about six months with my wife telling me what worked and what didn't along the way, refined it, employed two editors, rewrote it per their suggestions and criticism, circulated it, refined it and finally published it on Kindle in late 2010. Pathetic sales.
Made further refinements, tweaks and undertook a professional proofing before I published a Createspace paperback in spring, 2012 and really began trying to promote it. Bought reviews from Kirkus and SFO Book Reviews (no guarantee they'd be positive but thank goodness they were very positive). Ads on Facebook. An ad campaign in Kirkus which was useless (unless it explains the email I recently received 18 months later from a big Beverly Hills agency inquiring about film rights). Giveaways, some reviews and features in local press, two readings, an interview on local NPR radio station. Have since polished it two more times with very minor tweaks -- and now I'd say I'm finally finished. Time to move on already.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Couldn't get an agent or a publisher of course. Last one ("Consequences of Longing") I got an agent but no publisher. Same with the one before that, "Poontown," although reader Gloria Jones (widow of the great James) got it into the pipeline at Doubleday only to be axed by marketing. Indie publishing? Why else become an indie author if your work has literary pretensions? Unlike genre stuff (thrillers, romance, erotica, pirates and werewolves and vampires), literary work will never make you more than a few bucks unless a commercial publisher and significant promotion is behind it.
What did you achieve with your latest novel?
I got past myself and created a totally fictional world that came to life more vividly -- and touched on certain truths more directly -- than any of the semi-autobiographical works I've done. TJRM is both a very good book from a literary standpoint and a good story too. This will sound delusional to those people who don't get this book (a minority thank God) and even to the many who have enjoyed and even loved it: I feel TJRM one day will be discovered by its broader potential audience, celebrated and remembered. Who knew you could write such a fun story about living one's life with death all around?
Published 2013-11-04.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Consequences of Longing
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 98,700. Language: English. Published: November 21, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
The modest and mostly happy marriage of Clifford and Jenny Nelson unravels when he develops heart trouble, undergoes bypass surgery and loses his job as a commuter airline pilot. His sudden obsession with the first girl he ever loved forces Clifford and Jenny to face secrets they had spent their lives avoiding.