Today we welcome Peggy Wheeler.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Peggy Wheeler: My husband Steve and I live with our five little dog-like creatures in a geodesic dome in the middle of a forest of the mountains of Northern California. We don’t live too far from Donner Pass, but we do like to visit there now and again for a “bite.” Sorry for the bad humor. But, yes, we do live about an hour from Donner Pass, and pretty close to Lake Tahoe.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Peggy Wheeler: I’ve written four books. One non-fiction (unpublished), three fiction (two published, one is about to be published this year). I publish traditionally, but with a small yet respected Canadian publisher, Dragon Moon Press that’s been in existence for more than twenty-two years.
The Anam Glyphs is the first book I ever wrote. It’s about an oracle I developed in 2006 using archetypal symbols found around the globe. My agent at the time sold it to Llewellyn Worldwide, but the contract terms were lousy and we turned it down. My agent left the industry before selling it to anyone else, and then I lost interest, shelved it. I went on to write fiction.
The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Lady Beautimus was is an allegorical fantasy with talking animals. Takes place on a mythical planet. It’s part parody, part mystery, part comedy – it’s definitely a genre-bender. My agent for that book left the agenting biz before she sold it, but Dragon Moon Press picked it up and it came out in July this year. I got the idea from watching Disney’s Fantasia with the ballet dancing hippos, and James Cameron’s Avatar. It’s strange how the whole story developed. You had to have been there.
The Raven’s Daughter, second book I wrote, first one published. I never had an agent for that one, but not for lack of trying. It’s a dark and sometimes gruesome supernatural mystery-thriller with a feisty, ill-tempered, 46-yr old female protagonist, who is also a shapeshifter. It came out last year and is getting stellar reviews. Readers are waiting for the sequel but I’ve been working on it forever. I got the idea from living in a tiny town in the mountains (not the town I live in now, but one even more remote). The protagonist is half Irish and half Yurok. At a bear dance, I met Yurok women who taught me how to process white acorns, and with my Irish background, that gave me the idea to write a tough female protagonist of two cultures who turns out to be a monster killer.
CHACO, my third novel, is a dystopian for an adult audience. I got the idea when I read an article about the Carrington Event in the 2012 July issue of National Geographic. This spec fiction piece is a “what if a coronal mass ejection the size of the Carrington Event were to hit the planet today?” story, with an unlikely hero. I spent two years on helioscience sites and chatting up astrophysicists as research on that novel. I learned an awful lot about the relationship between Earth and the Sun. I did have an agent for that one, and she, like the other two, left the industry before selling the book. I’m beginning to think I’m poison to agents. Dragon Moon Press is releasing CHACO around the end of October 2017.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Peggy Wheeler: I’ve several works in the pipeline.
The sequel to The Raven’s Daughter. I’m about half done, but I’m in process of scrapping most of it and starting fresh, just keeping the best bits. It’s called The Summer Raven. I hope to have it completed by Spring, and I need to since I’ve a contract with Dragon Moon for it and they are waiting!
The Woman in the Desert about a Facebook catfish who lures men…well, no spoilers. It’s a Sci Fi.
The Ghost of Mrs. Stanislofsky, a period piece set in the late 1950s in San Francisco during the height of the Beat Era. It’s narrated by a ghost of an old Russian woman.
I’m also working on (as time permits) a short “how to” on what to look for in a small publisher, and another non-fiction piece, a shorty on Native American recipes and lore from The Raven’s Daughter.
Book ‘Em” What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Peggy Wheeler: Sequel to The Raven’s Daughter. It was well-received, and was short listed for the CCC Great Novel Contest. The pressure for it to be as good or better makes it so hard to just focus on writing the book.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Peggy Wheeler: Depends on the book. I actually went to San Francisco to the Beat Museum to research the ghost story, and I got a stack of books by the Beat Poets from the library, and I interview people who lived during that era in San Francisco.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Peggy Wheeler: I have eclectic tastes in literature. I love mystery, horror, historical fiction, literary and genre fiction, poetry, and I like books on science and also biography/memoir. My favorite writer of all time is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I’m in love with many, many writers from Chaucer to King.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Peggy Wheeler: My mom always thought I was a great writer. The last book I ever read to her before she died was The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus. She said it was beautiful. Then a few months later she was gone. I dedicated the book to her memory. Right now, my husband is my most fervent support and he encourages me every day.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Peggy Wheeler: Imagination and character dialogue. I also have good “basics” since I’ve a masters in Creative Writing, and a B.A. from UCLA in Lit. Plus, I was a technical writer for decades, and had a column in a Colorado mountain newspaper.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Peggy Wheeler: No routine. No ritual. I may write for days on end, up to thirteen hours in one sitting, or even get up at three a.m. to write, then I may not write a single new word for two months. I write when the muse yells at me.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Peggy Wheeler: I don’t know. I’m 63-years-old. My first book wasn’t published until I was 61. I’ll just keep writing until I’m dead. We shall see if I’m still here five years from now – hope so, but one never knows, right?
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Peggy Wheeler: Not too many years ago I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by one of my literary heroes – Margret Atwood, the famous Canadian author who write The Handmaid’s Tale. She gave the best advice I’ve ever heard for a novelist. “Forget about writing what you know. Instead, write what you’re passionate about.” I doubt Ray Bradbury had ever spent time on Mars before writing The Martian Chronicles. I doubt Arthur Golden ever visited pre-WWII Japan, or was ever a female, or ever a Geisha before he wrote Memoirs of a Geisha. If these two authors had written only what they knew those two brilliant books would never have been penned. THAT is what I would tell new writers.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Peggy Wheeler: That they loved my work so much, and something in my books moved them so deeply, that they give my books to others as gifts. Also, good reviews mean the world.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Peggy Wheeler: The opening to The Raven’s Daughter.
“Three weeks before his sixth birthday, the boy tasted his first human heart.
The Raven’s Daughter
The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus