Name Eric Peterson
Where are you from
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, have lived in San Diego for almost 35 years
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I studied Communication at UCSD, then transferred to Stanford in my junior year; I graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s degree in Communication/journalism. Married 30 years to Teresa Peterson. We have two daughters, both grown and out of the house. One lives in Austin, TX, the other in Albuquerque.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My second novel, “The Dining Car,” comes out this month (November 2016).
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always wanted to write novels. I transferred from UCSD to Stanford to study journalism, thinking that sort of basic training would make me a better novelist. Then I got sidetracked for a lot of years by business pursuits, hoping to make enough money to do what I really wanted to do, which was to crank out entertaining books. Without getting into a lot of detail, I was forty-five before it dawned on me that I’d better get started.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It took me five years to finish my first manuscript, “Life as a Sandwich.” The day I saw “Sandwich” in print form was the day I finally considered myself a writer. Looking back, that’s a false measure of a writer and an ignorant mindset. Writers write, and anyone who writes regularly and sincerely is a real writer, whether or not they see a manuscript produced in book form. And for the record, I’ve published both my novels through my privately owned imprint, Huckleberry House – which makes that milestone of “seeing it in print” particularly senseless.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My inspiration came from Ernest Hemingway and “The Sun Also Rises.” I read that book in high school, and it was the first novel that really grabbed me. I wanted to write books that would give readers a similar experience—to become thoroughly absorbed in another world, to experience the people and conversations as though you were actually there, to connect with the characters as if they were real friends or real enemies.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I have a very gifted story editor, Jennifer Silva Redmond, who strongly encourages me to cut anything not crucial to the action in a scene. As a result of her input, I suppose my writing style would be described as lean and visual, with a fast pace and a lot of dialogue. But that lean prose is probably more the result of my collaboration with Jennifer than of my natural writing style, which tends to be somewhat baggy.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I was meeting with the book’s creative team—Jennifer, a second editor, and the book’s designer—when they ganged up on me and said they didn’t like the working title. We all went back to the drawing board and asked our friends and family for ideas, too. Jennifer’s brother in Maine, Jack O’Shea, came up with “The Dining Car.” The second we heard it, Jennifer and I knew that was it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My hope for “The Dining Car” is that readers will be highly entertained by the story. Is there a message that I specifically want reader to grasp? No. There’s enough going on in this novel that it could probably serve as a personal Rorschach test—the message is whatever you think it is, wherever you happen to find it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
“The Dining Car” is entirely a work of fiction, but the idea for one of the main characters came from real life—a colorful and highly opinionated author and social critic named Lucius Beebe, who wrote columns and books from the 1920s until his death in 1966. He actually traveled the country by private railroad car, something you can still do today, by the way. So yes, the book is 100% a realistic novel.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
There are a handful of books that I reread regularly, including Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” and Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” For inspiration, as I’m embarking on a new project, I’ll often pick up “The Great Gatsby” and “Catcher in the Rye,” too.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
In recent years I’ve been thoroughly blown away by two books: Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” and Jonathan Franzen’s “The Corrections.” My favorite authors tend to work in the same realistic-contemporary fiction genre that I write for: humorous novelists like Larry McMurtry, John Irving, Tom Wolfe, and Graham Greene; their pitch-perfect dialogue and character studies are first-rate.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I had a journalism professor at Stanford who singled me out for my humorous essays, and as we corresponded in the years after I left college, I learned that he and I shared a desire to write novels full time. I lost touch with him and later learned he’d retired from teaching, moved to Florida, and then passed away, but his encouraging words sustain me at the keyboard to this day.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I have a passion for turning out entertaining books. I love the process—the writing, the editing, the process of working with a talented designer to create a cover and to design the book. I’m a publisher, so I see it as a business, too. It’s what I do. Period.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
We’re just now preparing to launch “The Dining Car,” and I have to say, it’s a book that I’m very happy with. I can’t think of a single thing I’d change.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As a teen, and then later as a young adult, any good novel I read made me increasingly determined to write a novel. One I particularly remember was John Irving’s “The World According to Garp.” I read that on a beach at Lake Tahoe when I was in high school, and it made me want to move to Lake Tahoe and write books.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I have a next novel forming in my head, but it’s too early to talk about it. The early reviews of “The Dining Car” have included than a few readers calling for a sequel, so that might happen, too. Who knows?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
For me it’s production—the time it takes to finish a manuscript. My pace is agonizingly slow because I labor, literally, over every word. I’ll go through the draft of a single page maybe ten times before allowing myself to move on because I want that page to be the best it can possibly be. It’s the way I work. I’m not sure that’ll ever change.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I had the pleasure of traveling on a number of private railroad cars as I was working on “The Dining Car.” I made it a point to cover the same routes that the Pioneer Mother travels in the book. Standing on an open platform at the back of a train, taking three meals a day at a formal dining table, sipping cocktails as the world passes by—it wasn’t a bad research assignment.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Kathleen Wise designed the cover for “The Dining Car,” and she gave us a superb cover. It literally invites you in to the story.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
At the risk of sounding corny, the hardest part about writing “The Dining Car” was typing out “The End” and pushing back from the word processor. The characters were like a family living in my head, and I knew I was going to miss them.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Going through the editing process, I think, taught me time and time again to trust my instincts as a writer. Things I labored to shoehorn in were ultimately removed; scenes I struggled to lengthen were ultimately shortened; extra adjectives were cut.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
Because I’ve been told “The Dining Car” is a very cinematic book, I’d rather not say. If it ever gets made into a film, I want to wholeheartedly support the director in his creative choices—and that includes his casting.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
If you’re serious about writing, my best advice is to be informed about your craft. Study grammar, usage, and punctuation. Check your pride at the door and read up on the fundamentals of writing a novel. Two books I recommend are “Stein on Writing” by Sol Stein and “The 38 Most Common Fiction Writings Mistakes” by Jack M. Bickham. Learn one thing useful and it’ll be well worth the time invested.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for picking up a copy of “The Dining Car.” If you like it and can recommend it to others, thank you for doing that, too.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
At the moment I’m finishing “Portrait of a Lady” by Henry James.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but I’m certain the first memorable book I read was “The Sun Also Rises.”
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
In fiction, it’s realistic, character-driven situations. The misunderstood dialogue, the anticipation of an explosive reaction, the empathy with a flawed character.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
One person I would love to sit down with now—I’d give anything—is my old Stanford professor, mentor, and friend Dr. William Rivers. I’d like to show him “Life as a Sandwich” and “The Dining Car.” I can picture him now, puffing his pipe, gazing at the two books, and beaming at the fact that “we” did it.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
It would be nice to be remembered as a good writer, but my most meaningful roles in life have been as a husband and a father. I’d like my kids to say I was a great dad.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I gave up golf to write. My wife and I travel the country in a big tour bus, a 42-foot Country Coach. I guess driving places and seeing things constitutes my hobby.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The recent presidential race has turned me into a bona fide news junkie. I don’t even watch football anymore.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Like Horace Button, one of the main characters in “The Dining Car,” I enjoy classic cuisine, a formal dining table, and a good martini. I like my Caesar salads prepared tableside, my beef and lamb rare, and I’d probably choose a Napa Valley cabernet over a French Bordeaux. In the tour bus, driving down the highway, I tend to listen to Country music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I can see myself being a filmmaker because I like the idea of working collaboratively on creative projects, projects that have a definite start and a stop date, after which you move on to the next one. I also enjoy writing business plans and pitching to investors. But I’m afraid I’ve reached an age where I’m less and less able to suffer fools, and that probably rules out doing anything in Hollywood. Writing funny books and traveling the country suits me right now.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Our publishing company is Huckleberry House. The website is http://huckleberryhousebooks.com/