Monday, June 16, 2014

Interview & Signed Paperback Giveaway with Mystery Author Caleb Peiffer: Part 2

Welcome back, Caleb! :-) Time for another round of questions ...

What literary character are you most like?

CALEB: My first choice is Don Quixote. We're both dreamers, idealists, and often delude ourselves into thinking impractical things are very practical. If I wasn't writing, I'd probably be lying in a ditch, recovering from a fight with a windmill. My second choice is Amory Blaine. I don't expect you to know who that is -- As widely as "The Great Gatsby" is read, Fitzgerald's first novel, "This Side of Paradise," is comparatively little-known. Amory is the protagonist, shamelessly based on Fitzgerald himself, and I've rarely felt as thorough a connection with a literary character as I did with him. Since then I've read more of Fitzgerald's work, and though I don't always identify with the characters and sometimes not even the stories, I often identify with the writing.

What was the hardest part of writing your current book?

CALEB: When I was writing "Gone Like the Shadow," I met with a roadblock I hadn't encountered with either of my previous books. It was a feeling of insufficiency. It's a serious problem that most writers will understand. Sometimes, maybe most of the time, what we call "writer's block" is essentially just the fear of failure, dressed up until we can't recognize it right away. In my case, "Gone Like the Shadow" dealt with a lot of personal emotions, and a lot of story and heart was based on the spiritual experiences of a person I care very much about. I felt like that was a lot to live up to, and I began to be afraid that I couldn't pull it off. But here's the thing. Every writer deals with inspirational blocks, usually emotional, oftentimes a feeling of insufficiency. This wasn't my first - just maybe my worst. Some get through writer's block by allowing themselves to write as poorly as necessary as long as they're writing, and then make it all better in revision. I disagree with this for a lot of reasons. My main reason is it's like saying you can build a house out of cardboard and then paint it to make it look like it's brick. How much pride does a writer really have in their work if he or she is willing to do a slipshod job and later make it look like they didn't? When writer's block comes around, writers have two choices: to write poorly and let themselves fail "for now," or to write well. So I chose to write well and I got through. I'm not saying it works 100% of the time, and even though I chose to "write well" I didn't always. But just the choice to work my hardest, and to accept that was okay that it was hard, freed me and gave me the strength to keep going. Honestly, some of my best work came out in moments like these, I think. In the worst of times, I was willing to do my best, and that meant I was really making the effort for my art.

Your titles are unusual and mysterious. How do you come up with them?

CALEB: All my titles in the "Wheelchair Sleuth Mysteries" come from Scripture. When I'm reading I often pick out verses I would consider using, and this is how I find a lot of my titles. Other than that, it's all very haphazard. Sometimes, I'll just brainstorm and make a long list of titles I like, narrow it down to just a few I'm really wild about for a lot of good reasons, and then get friends to help me make a rational final choice. It's not a matter of finding the one perfect title, because any given book could have dozens of perfect titles. When I'm deciding on a title I pick based on a lot of criteria: is it descriptive? is it relevant? is it pretty? is it catchy? Sometimes I pick titles on a gut feeling, but I always find criteria like these hidden behind those feelings.

Your books are set in the early decades of the 1900s. What part of researching did you find most interesting? Least interesting?

CALEB: The most fun I have in researching is tracking down quotations for use as epigraphs, finding ones that fit and making sure I'm tracing them to the right source, and that the source comes before the time my novel is set in. It wouldn't work to have a post-WWI factory worker quoting Lee Harper, would it? I also read a lot of novels from the time period I write in, to get a stronger feeling for the atmosphere and the way people talked and thought (and to collect quotations as I go!). I always enjoy that. Most of my favorite novels come from that time period -- that's one of the reasons I enjoy writing in that time period! I also enjoy learning about historical events, people, and innovations technological or lingual or otherwise, and exploring different sources of information to flesh out my understanding of them from different angles. But the devil is in the details; the least interesting part of researching is that moment when I just need to know whether one character's shoes would have buttons or laces, because it might be an important clue and I need to know how to make it accurate. All I need is just one trifling tidbit of information, and that is always the hardest thing to trace down.

Seeing that your writing is strongly influenced by your Christian worldview, I'd like to know: Do you have a favorite book of the Bible?

CALEB: I like to read Proverbs and Psalms regularly, just because they're handy references for guidance and inspiration. But my favorite book would have to be the book of Job. Job's story speaks in a practical and vividly emotional way about the experience of [the] human relationship with God. When I'm dealing with struggles of my own, reading about Job's affliction and his faith and bravery in the face of them is very humbling.

What will you be working on next, Caleb?

CALEB: Leo Westmacott will be coming back in the future, but at the moment I'm working on several other projects. My main focus at the moment is a novel loosely rooted in the story of the golem of Jewish folklore. In the beginning the concept was born as a sequel to Shelley's "Frankenstein," but as I plotted it became more and more my own until I decided to make the necessary changes to make the story entirely my own -- although a lot of the influences are still there, I'm not going to lie!

Thanks for stopping in, Caleb! I've really enjoyed having you here, and your answers have been really thought-provoking! :-)

Visit Caleb:

His blog
His Facebook page
His Amazon page


Dear Readers, if you haven't entered the giveaway for a SIGNED PAPERBACK copy of your choice of Caleb Peiffer's books, you still have time! :-) Our giveaway ends at 11:59 P.M. on Thursday, June 19th. You can enter below:

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  1. This was a great interview--I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into the author's thought processes and methods in his writing.


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