Category Archives: larry answers your questions

An in-depth interview with Larry

Larry is originally from the Bronx, so the setting of the story came easily for him. I asked him what he liked best about his hometown.

“There is really no other place like it. When you are growing up there, you don’t realize it. It’s home. It’s the way it is. But when you grow up and sort of peek in from the outside you realize what an incredible city it is. The different people, ethnicity, cultural differences, all blending together. Millions of folks crammed into subways and buses every day , insane traffic jams and, although it is far from perfect, when stuff happens , like 9/11 and the Great Blackout of 1965, New Yorkers join together and help each other and give of themselves. It’s a beautiful thing.”

He has lived in Pinellas Park, Florida, for the past thirty years. He and his wife have a two bedroom home (his kids and grandkids live nearby, but not with them), and he’s converted one bedroom into an office. He has a file cabinet at each end of the long window wall. He bought a ten-foot kitchen counter top with a backsplash and set it between the file cabinets, making a work area. The counter has two computer stands below it.

“I have the monitors and office supplies on the counter and there is a small desk on my right. Papers are strewn all over the place and my poor wife, a quite orderly person, cringes when she peeks in,” he admitted. “It is OK—I know where everything is. I’m lovin’ my little world.”

Larry gets up between 5:30 and 6 every morning, makes coffee, showers, boots up the computer, then checks and cleans up messages. He goes to 7 AM Mass and is home by 7:40. In the perfect world, he tries to write for four or five hours.

“There are distractions that you must attend to,” he explained. “For example, I am in the middle of a three month virtual book tour. It is necessary and takes a lot of time. But I am loving it and an unexpected perk has come from it. Answering so many questions about so many different things has helped me to know myself better, not only as a writer but as a person also. The fact is, I appreciate having this interview to do. It expands me for me.”

When Larry’s not writing, he’s very involved with The St. Vincent de Paul Society. He’s been a member for almost twenty years and works with the poor and homeless. He’s also been recruited and is returning to coaching youth baseball. He and his son have taken on a team of six and seven year olds.

“When did you first consider yourself a writer?” I wondered.

“Since the novel has been released and has received some awesome reviews I am close to believing I am a writer. I never really thought I was any good at it. Mediocre at best. But when people in the business who do not know you give KUDOS to your work it is humbling and also tells you your work is OK. So, I guess that does make me a writer. Now, ain’t that the cat’s pajamas.. Thanks for asking this question. You helped me finally figure it out.”

I asked him what inspired him to write.

“My answer has to be nothing. I just liked doing it. Even as a kid I enjoyed writing stories. I remember kids in school who loved to draw. They just were good at it and liked doing it. What was their inspiration? I guess it was the enjoyment they received from doing it. That leads me to have to retract my nothing answer. I guess many of us, depending on what we discover we like to do, inspire ourselves. That leads us onward to see what others might do in the same area and that results in further inspiration. I guess that’s how it works. “

When he moved to Florida after being diagnosed with MS, he went to college and then started freelancing. One of his jobs was as a columnist for the Pinellas Park News. He met Judson Bailey, the editor/publisher, and he gave Larry the best advice he ever got about writing.

“He had worked for the AP for many years and his home base had been NYC. He was quite the character. He had a huge mane of white hair and huge white eyebrows. He wore a white cowboy hat and always seemed to have his feet propped up on his desk, his red-cowboy boots with the silver, metal tips staring at you. He also smoked a corn-cob pipe. I am not making this up,” he assured me. “Anyway, he liked my work (most of it was tongue-in-cheek stuff about family and also satire). I wrote a column a week and he never edited anything. But he said to me, ‘Petie,’ (he called me Petie) ‘always be yourself. You have a unique way of saying things. Don’t let anyone change you.’ I never forgot that.”

I asked Larry how he came up with the titles to his books.

“I think it is a metamorphosis. My first book, Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes was originally Willie Wiggles. It morphed into Little Willie Wiggles and, by the time it was published, it was Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes. The Priest and The Peaches went through the same process. It was A Bronx Funeral and The Best Damn Funeral Ever. Once the priest, Father Sullivan, appeared and became a primary character it became The Priest and The Peaches.”

More Q&A with Larry

Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. I spent 15 years working in the building trades as a Metal Lather/Reinforcing Iron Worker and left that business when I came down with MS. My wife, three kids and I moved to Flordia (doctors advice) 30 years ago. I began doing freelance newspaper commentary after graduating college in 1984. My first book (children’s) was published in Jan, 2011. The Priest and The Peaches is my first full length novel and I have begun work on the sequel (no title yet). I live in Pinellas Park, FL. I have graduated to “senior citizen status” and writing has become my “permanent senior moment.”
What are you currently working on?
As mentioned, I am currently working on the sequel to The Priest and The Peaches and I am also knee deep in a three month longonline book tour which has not only been a fun journey but has also taught me things about myself and my characters.  How cool is that?
What was the first book you ever wrote about and was it ever published?
The truth is, Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes was originally penned long ago. Then it sat. I pulled it out about 22 years ago and rewrote it, shortened it and sent it off to HBJ. Now it gets weird. I received a phone call from their schoolbook division in Orlando, FL and a nice lady said to me, “Congratulations and welcome to the HBJ family.” That was a WOW! moment. Three weeks later I received a standard rejection letter from the San Diego office. Talk about a high and a low. I could go into more detail – but what’s the point? That just was not the right time. Anyway, I pulled the book back out about five years ago, rewrote it again and  changed the title, etc. and now it is out there. It’s all “GOOD.”

What or who made the biggest influence on you wanting to become a writer?
I don’t think anyone did. I just liked doing it. This is one of those questions that have made me think about things as I travel along the blog-tour highway.

Do you have any writing habits that people might find unusual?
Not really. I do write with pen and paper before I go to the keyboard and I am a morning person. That’s it. 

I have heard that many authors listen to music while they write. Do you? If so, what do you usually listen to?
I don’t nor could I. That’s like trying to read while you watch TV. My brain is not that nimble.

Do you have a favorite character or one that is especially close to your heart?
I guess this means in general and not necessarily from my book – I love Santiago from Hemingway’s Old Man & The Sea. He is old, worn out, alone on the sea,  doing what he has to do, no fan fare, no audience, and is having  the greatest battle of his fishing career. He wins the battle and the sharks strip him of his trophy yet, he has no regrets.

What is the best gift you have ever received and who gave it to you?
Being THANKED by a perfect stranger for writing the book and letting you know how important it was to them.You know it came from their heart. That’s the best.

What are three things (not people) that you wouldn’t want to live without?

My faith, my eyes and an early morning before sunrise.
What is something that you have always wanted to do, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet?
Nothing really. I have not done much in my life but I’m content and at peace with most everything.
All the music in the world is being destroyed and you can only save one album, what would you save and why?
Too much beautiful music to choose from. So, give me Chopin’s Major in E-flat.
What is your all-time favorite book? What is your favorite book you have read this year?
Hemingway’s Old Man & The Sea. This year, Under The Same Sky by Cynthia DeFelice. About a 14-year-old who goes to work with migrant workers on his father’s farm to earn some money and learns some life-changing lessons about being with folks who are “different.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Probably read.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Early bird for sure.
If you were throwing a dinner party and you could invite five people (fictional or real, dead or alive) who would you invite?
Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, St. Joseph, and my parents (who have been dead a long time).
You are given a ticket that will bring you anywhere that you want to go, at anytime in history. Where would you go and why?
The battlefield at Gettysburg,
Nov. 1863 to listen to Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address.

You've got questions? Larry's got answers!

When did you first get the idea for The Priest and the Peaches?
My brothers and sister and I did lose our parents when we were quite young but I never considered writing about that or something based on that. Then, about four years ago our brother, Bobby, suddenly passed away. After the funeral we were at a pub up in Monroe, NY, and were were sitting around reminiscing. Well, more and more memories began to come forth from all of us and, before you knew it, we were laughing our heads off and having a grand old time. It was awesome. That is when the idea began to germinate. The book is a fictionalized account of those days and many of the characters and incidents can be attributed to “poetic license.”

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I guess so. But it took me most of my life to actually get there. The cliche, “You gotta do what you gotta do,” would fit me well. I was where I was when I was needed and always tried my best to do what I had to do no matter the circumstances. This relegated writing to the lower echelons of what “needed” to be done. Today I am blessed to be enjoying what I like to call my “permanent senior moment” which is that of being a writer.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
I really have no desire to go anywhere in particular but if I actually had to choose it probably would be the Vatican. The history and treasure trove of artifacts there would be something to see.

What is one item on your bucket list?
There is something and it just popped up last week. My son and I began coaching a Lttle League team of six and seven year olds. One of the boys has a form of autism. He does not pay attention , cannot throw a ball or catch one. If we can get him to actually learn how to throw and catch by April that would be quite an accomplishment. That is the one thing on my previously empty bucket list. We’ll see how it goes.

Describe The Priest and the Peaches in just five words!
Loving your neighbor means forgiveness.

Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla (but today it is chocolate—I am flexible)

Target or Walmart?
Walmart is two miles from where I live. So, Walmart equals convenience.

Ice cream or frozen yogurt?
Ice cream

Movies or books?
Books, although I do not read nearly as much as I would like to.

Larry answers your questions

What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Larry Peterson, born and raised in the Bronx, NY and I have lived in Pinellas Park, FL for the last 31 years.

When did you first consider yourself as a “writer”?
I think when this new book launched I began to feel I was a writer. There is still a certain ambiguity in my feelings about this.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
The title of the book is “The Priest and The Peaches”. Five, newly orphaned kids, find an inner strength to stay together because they have the love of family within them. (You asked for 20 words and that is exactly 20)

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
The publisher is Tribute Books from Archbald, PA.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
I have started work on the sequel to “The P & The P”. This may definitely develop into a series. We’ll see.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?
I tried to write it at the YA level because I wanted to give the younger folks a sense of how even young people can use the power of family love and caring for others to help conquer any obstacle.

How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I probably started writing in grade school. Just “scribbling”. There was no inspiration. I just liked doing it. I had to graduate to official senior citizen status before I actually became what one might call a writer. It was a long road traveled.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
No actual routine. No music either. I do most of my work in the morning. I have turned a bedroom into my paper strewn office and that is my funky, little writing world. Just lovin’ it.

Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
My wife happens to be an outstanding proof-reader. She also has a great insight into grammar. I drive her crazy with some of my NYC street dialogue. She is the only one who sees the book before I dare send it off. I tried critique groups etc in the past but that, for me, was absolutely frustrating. There was never a constant that you could seize upon.

Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Yes–I read every review and try to respond to every one, even if negative.

What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
The toughest review I ever had actually was two days ago. This was not even a review, it was more or less an excoriation trashing the grammar, the dialogue, and the whole concept especially the character of the priest. There was an actual anger going on which I did not fully understand. Funny thing was, a few hours later I received a beautiful note from someone thanking me for writing the book. In fact, the reviews have been, for the most part, outstanding and very humbling. That’s just the way it goes.

Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
No–I would never ask anyone to change their review or opinion. You can’t please everyone. Just look at the political vitriol taking place. If they don’t love you they hate you—no gray areas.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
Actually, the title did change several times so, to answer, no, it probably comes later.

How do you market/promote your books?
Right now we are doing this 3 month on-line book tour. Plus, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Marketing is not my strong suit and I am trying to learn different ways to promote. It is very hard and very competitive.

Have you ever suffered from a “writer’s block”? What did you do to get past the “block”?
You get past writer’s block by writing your way out of it. Even if you are only putting gibberish on the paper sooner or late a cohesive thought will find its way out.

Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
Sure—I believe that all fiction ultimately comes from who the writer is and what he/she has experienced in life. Life experience is the seed and from there who knows what the writer will grow.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of “The moral of this story is..”)
The message in “The Priest and The Peaches” is simple–L-Y-N (love your neighbor) The message in my children’s book, “Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes” is basically the same because it teaches kids how we are all different and that is an OK thing.

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
I may be influenced by Hemingway. Why? He keeps thing simple.

What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I am reading a YA book called “The Village By The Sea” by Paula Fox. If you want to read books with great description and less dialogue, check her out.

Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
No, I don’t think so. I think people will always want a hard copy to hold. I expect that down the road technology will be available to make your e-book into a hard copy for minimal cost and people might respond to that. I’m not sure.

What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
You have to keep at it, be thick skinned, and never quit no matter what.

More Q&A with Larry

1. What (and how many) works have you released? What are they about?
My first book was a children’s book, “Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes”. Released in Jan, 2011, it is about a boy who has slippery feet and slips, slides and spins all over the place. He has special shoes made for him so he won’t slip and slide but he hates them. He thinks that they are the stupidest, ugliest shoes in the whole world and is certain that everyone will laugh at him if he wears them. The book deals with accepting differences in others and shows how we are all different in one way or another. My new book, “The Priest and The Peaches” is a YA novel and was released Jan, 2012. It is the story of five newly orphaned kids and how, with the quiet guidance of the local priest, begin their quest to stay together as a family. The book shows the power and importance of family and how it is so important to L-Y-N (love your neighbor).

2. How did you get the idea for your work? What lured you to your topics?
We had a three year old foster son years ago who was so hyper and lacking of any self-control that he would run into things (the wall, a door, run off the front steps etc) but he never got hurt. That is where the idea for Slippery Willie came from and it grew from there. As far as “The Priest and The Peaches” is concerned my brothers, sister and I did lose our folks when we were very young and it was a difficult time for us. The book is a fictionalized story but the basis for it comes from the early years in our lives.

3. What scene, topic, or section was the most intense (or visual) for you to write?
There is a scene in the book that takes place between the antagonist, Beatrice Amon, and the priest, Father Sullivan. As I wrote the scene I could not believe how if actually made me emotional. I had not planned it and the words just fell together. It was amazing.

4. In the event that your book became a screenplay (or documentary), who would you like to see included in the casting?
Wow, I never thought about something like this. Okay, I’m a big fan of Robert DeNiro. He would be perfect for the character of “Pops”. Beyond that—I just don’t know. Maybe Matt Damon as Father Sullivan.

5. If you could meet anyone or see anything (characters, locations, events, abilities, creatures, etc) from your novel, who or what would you choose?
I would probably like to go to “Pops’” New Year’s Eve wake.

6. How did you go about selecting your cover?
I didn’t. My publisher, Tribute Books, had that done and I was blown away by it. I would never have come up with something so perfect. It tells a story all by itself.

7. Do you have any upcoming projects? When can readers expect them?
I am working on the sequel to the Priest and The Peaches. I have a ways to go on that. In fact, doing the on-line book tour has stifled me some in working on it. It should be done by the fall.

8. Why did you become an author (or start writing)?
I don’t know why. I always liked to write, even as a kid. But my life experiences detoured me. I am not complaining or making excuses. I did what I did when I had to and during that time being a writer would have been a luxury requiring time that had to be devoted to more pertinent things that were not about me.

9. What do you love the most about being an author?
The freedom to do your thing and write it down.

10. What or who inspires you to write?
I guess it is my life experiences in dealing with all sort of different people many of them being the poor and homeless as a member of the St. Vincent De Paul Society.

11. What is the top cause you champion?
Try not to pass judgment on others. You just don’t know the journey they have traveled. The old cliché, “Walk a mile in my shoes” is profound.

12. What advice do you have for anyone who is interested in becoming an author?
You must persevere. You must be thick skinned and accept rejection gracefully. Be a demanding taskmaster when it comes to re-writing and editing your own work.

13. What is the one thing your readers should know about you?
I have attained the rank of official “senior-citizen” (the gov’t says so and they never lie) and being a writer is what I call my “permanent senior moment”.

14. If you could do anything (for a career), besides being a writer, what would do?
Being a writer is as good as it gets and if I could have started 40 years ago I would have.

15. Aside from writing, what are your hobbies?
Sorry, I have no hobbies to speak of.

16. What is…?
a.…your favorite author?
Hemingway, for his simplicity.
b.…your favorite book or series?
Hemingway’s “Old Man & The Sea” & C.S. Lewis, 7 volumes of Chronicle of Narnia
c.…your biggest literary inspiration?
Walt Whitman’s “O Captain-My Captain” written upon the death of Abraham Lincoln

17. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what artists? If not, do you have other muses?
Nope—I don’t know how folks can do that. My “muse” is rattling around inside my head and we have a grand time tormenting each other.

18. Is there anything that helps you write or is unique about your writing process?
Helps me write? You got me. I just do it. Unique? Maybe the fact that I use pen and paper. The keyboard comes later.

19. Which, if any, character do you feel has the most of your characteristics (behavioral or otherwise)?
Probably Teddy Peach. I’ll leave it at that.

Larry talks!

It all started with a 3 year old…
“The Priest and The Peaches” is my first novel. My first published book is a children’s book, “Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes”. The seeds for “Slippery Willie” were planted by a foster son we had many years ago. His name was Brian, he was three years old, and was the most hyper-active, uncontrolled kid you might imagine. He would jump up and run into walls, doors, fall off steps etc. and never get hurt. “Slippery Willie” is not like Brian but that is where the idea first came from. As far as the novel my brothers and sister and I did lose our parents when we were very young and that is where the book had its origin.

He’s traditional in every sense of the word…
Traditionally published. Everyone has a personal preference in things and the self-publishing market has become huge. Personally, I always felt that if someone besides me, an outsider, someone I did not know and in the book business, actually liked what I did, I might believe I could write. For me, self-publishing would never validate my abilities. But, that’s me and I know that there is a lot of quality self-published work out there.

His desire to write and his inspiration…
I have always wanted to write, even back in grade school. It just took a VERY LONG time before I actually got to the point in life where I did it. My bio gives a peek into where I have been prior to becoming a writer. The people and experiences that live inside me.

A creature of habit…sort of…
I’m a morning guy. Up at 5:30 or 6. Shower etc, Coffee, boot up PC, check messages, go to 7 a.m Mass, home by 7:45 and try to write until early afternoon. Rarely happens because when you work at home it is like having your cell phone suddenly drop a signal. It is hard to have a consistently solid, clear signal.

A space to write…
I have a bedroom that I turned into an office. That is my upside down corner of the world. My wife gets a headache when she looks in. I have stuff all over the place but I know where everything is. I am actually a neat and tidy guy but when it come to writing I have so many bit and pieces of paper and books strewn about well, I’m sure you get the picture. For me it is IDEAL!

Writing has it’s surprises…
As your story unfolds the unexpected things that happen. You think you know what is going to happen but new characters pop in, character traits take a twist, location changes unexpectedly…when that happens it can be an absolute adventure for you.

There are challenges…
The editing process can be very challenging, plus knowing when to say STOP and I’m FINISHED. You have to be ruthless and know when to kill off whole paragraphs and even chapters and characters or—maybe not. Marketing and sales are big challenges as well. The market is so inundated with stuff, especially with self-publishing so readily available and accessible and search engine optimization and tag words‖ so prolific in so many categories. A writer could be the next coming of Earnest Hemingway or Edgar Allan Poe and never get noticed without proper promotional work —whatever that might be.

He’s published now…
Well, I am certainly an unknown quantity and I certainly have not made any money, YET. All of that stuff will happen if it is supposed to. I leave that in God’s hands and I can honestly say, I do not worry about any of that. I do have the luxury of being able to write every day, I am very busy (especially now, doing this three month blog tour) and it is all, as the modern cliché goes, GOOD. I have been blessed.

You just might be surprised by…
Beatrice Amon, the antagonist, might surprise folks. I’ll leave it at that.

What the future holds…
The next book is a sequel. The life of the Peach kids continues. With that said, I think I have blabbered enough. If anyone might have a question(s) for me I would be happy to answer them. Just go to my site or e-mail me. I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY. For 15 years I worked in the NYC building trades as a Metal Lather/Reinforcing Iron Worker but had to leave that business when I came down with MS. My wife, Loretta, our three kids and I moved to Florida 30 years ago basically (because of my illness) so I could escape the cold, ice and snow of northern winters.

More questions…more Larry

1. Tell us why we should read your book in twitter detail. (140 characters or less)
The Priest & The Peaches—sad, funny, kids taking care of kids–family and love.

2. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Editing. When you write YOUR words down and look at them later it is your creation that you have to be ruthless with it. We have a tendency to sort of fall in love with our own work. I don’t. When I re-read something I have done I know what has to go and it is like, OH NUTS!-now I have to do it over. So I call myself something like “dumb” or “idiot” and get busy re-doing.

3. How do you balance serious moments with funny ones in your books?
Never thought about this. I think I try to insert humor into the most serious situations. For example, when Teddy throws a punch at the “Trumpet Man” and punches Scratch by mistake busting his nose and blood is all over the place. That was a serious situation but it was funny.

4. What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
People butting into conversations others might be having simply because they have a need to say something that is not an emergency and have no respect for the folks talking together. Also, people on cell phones in restaurants when they are with folks. You can talk later. There was time we had no cell-phones or pagers or answering machines. We all survived. Leave the phone in the car.

5. What is your favorite part of the Holiday Season?
Thanksgiving Day thru January 1 – I love the whole Christmas season.

6. Least favorite?
January 2. Back to reality.

7. If we had an author talent show, what would your talent be?
I would ask if I could sit in the audience. I’d be the loudest clapper.