Interview of Peter H. Green, Writer, with Claire Applewhite, June, 2013
Claire Applewhite is the author of several mysteries in her ‘Nam Nor Series. I have read most of them and find her latest, Tennessee Plates (L & L Dreamspell, 2012), a suspenseful page turner, full of interesting and quirky characters. She recently interviewed me for the blog of Greater St. Louis Chapter, Sisters in Crime: Peter Green: On Designing Crime. Here‘s our conversation:
You have a long list of achievements and a wide variety of interests, Pete, would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
- When did you first decide you were going to get involved in a writing career? After a long year career as an architect and marketer of my firm’s architecture and engineering services, at our 40th Reunion my Yale classmates posed the provocative question: What are you going to do with the last third of your life? All of us, about 60 or 61, were considering retirement and new directions, facing 20 to 30 years of relative ease and freedom from more pressing obligations. One re-married classmate looked forward to finishing payment for educating all their offspring, “hers, mine and ours,” and doing some of that travel people talk about. Another contemplated writing about an unusual and interesting diplomatic career. A third planned to take flying lessons. When his friends warned he was damned fool and might get himself killed, he said, “But now I can do what I’ve always dreamed of and no longer have anyone to stay alive for!” Not a bad outlook, I decided: trying something new, taking risks and fulfilling your heart’s desire.
- What is your background, and what part did it play? It’s a long story, starting with my parents, a homemaker and an ex-Marine, both writers and publicists, a grandfather who was a construction contractor and me, an architect that has encountered many fascinating people in a long career, and who just loves to tell stories. My dad did a lot of writing for his radio and ad agency jobs, and Mom had always wanted to be a writer and never went through with it. They had always said I had the ability to be a writer, and I’d always wanted to but needed to earn a living. In a way, I felt I owed it to them and to myself to finish what they started. And in my profession, my favorite activity was always describing the projects and getting people excited about hiring our team. I gravitated toward the marketing side of the business, writing proposals, reports and publicity for my firms. This resulted in millions of words cascading from my pen and then from my computer screen over the years. That’s a lot of writing practice when you think about it.
- Please tell us about the first book you got published and the story behind it. On that same college reunion trip my wife Connie and I also visited one of her college classmates, Mary Oates Johnson, a writer and editor, in Andover, Mass. I happened to mention that I spent the summer of 1945, when I turned five, just up the coast with my mother, sister, aunt and her family in a rented seaside house at Annisquam, while Dad was off to war. She insisted on guiding us toward that tiny fishing hamlet, and we happened on a familiar beach turnoff and a house I recognized on the right side of the road. Memories of that summer flooded back, as if I had never left. Later that evening, over much great seafood and wine, Mary pointed out I had the tools to write a great World War II story, and that I simply must do it. I resolved to write a biography and family memoir, based on some 400 letters my mother had saved from that time. The letters revealed, among much other hitherto unpublished war history, that on August 14, 1945 Dad, as de facto manager of Armed Forces Radio Station WXLI on Guam, scooped the stateside networks on news of the Japanese surrender.
- Has your work changed since that book? In what ways? Over a long career I have designed buildings, planned development sites and promoted my firm. On that journey through the world of design and construction I’ve met real estate developers, bureaucrats, politicians, office rivals–all human, mind you, many of them honorable and even noble–but with a few bad apples that undo the hard work of all the good folks just trying to make life a little better for the rest of us. As a result I saw enough close calls, suspicious acts and outright skullduggery to wonder, what if? In a way, I wished I could have been taller, better looking and more heroic than I was. In second-guessing my life, I wondered what would have happened if, instead of becoming the cautious, conservative person that life taught me to be, I had taken more risks, been braver, more outspoken and more confrontational than I was? So I created someone who was all of these things and, even though he is a perfectionist, far from perfect, with a weakness for beautiful women—architect Patrick MacKenna, an amateur sleuth and hero of my mystery series.
- What is the greatest compliment you have received about your work?What comments, if any bothered you? I’ve been pleased to receive good reviews: “Peter Green’s Crimes of Design—a “flood-plain noir” mystery—weaves a complex tale of murder, eco-terrorism, love, lust and betrayal. Set in St. Louis at the confluence of the great Mississippi and Missouri rivers, thenovel dredges up fascinating facts about the rivers’ pivotal roles in Midwestern Americana— wetlands law, floods, barge traffic, levees, locks, pumping stations, agricultural commodities trading, corn futures, and how they all interrelate.” —Rick Skwiot, author of Key West StoryAbout Dad’s War with the United States Marines, James A. Cox of Midwest Book Review said: “Sure to inspire the reader to thoughtful reflection given current demands on the American military arising from the ‘war on terrorism,’ Dad’s War with the United States Marines’ is very highly recommended to all general readers and a welcome addition to the growing library of military memoirs and biographies.” Few negative comments have come to my attention, and some that did came early enough in the process to allow me to improve my work before publication.
- How do you promote your work?I’ve used press releases, radio or TV appearance, author book talks and signings, a bi-monthly newsletter and promotion and sales at regional book conferences, including chairing a panel at last year’s Killer Nashville mystery conference.
- Would you advise another person to become a writer? What caveats/ encouragements would you like to offer? Writers my parents introduced me when I was in school to jokingly advised against it, offering such comments as, “too many writers already, no money in it, it’s a terrible life.” Kidding aside, from conception to promotion it’s a full time job, and it only produces a living for those who a) have extremely high skills and a bit of good luck, b) treat it is as work and pursue employment as a free-lance journalist or work as employees for magazines, journals, schools and universities, or in other careers and stay dedicated to writing part-time. Those who speak and communicate their message well to the reading public will do best.
- Can you tell me about your biggest writing triumph? I’d have to say it was in finding a publisher for my first book. Because it’s so difficult for a new writers to access literary a gents and the big publishers, I went the interdependent route, searched on the Writers Market website for publishers looking for historical and biographical material and hooked up with a small, independent publisher, who took the project to heart and did a creditable book design job. Naturally, however the rest was up to me, a daunting task for an individual who’s also trying to write.
- Which of your books is your personal favorite? I always find it’s the next one, because I learn so much each time I publish, I can always find ways to do better. In my second Patrick MacKenna Mystery, Fatal Designs, to be released this summer by L & L Dreamspell, Patrick and his daughter Erin are again locked in struggle during a natural disaster. When an earth tremor causes an avalanche, roils the river and separates seventeen-year old Erin MacKenna from her canoeing party, she and her young companion witness the burial of a murder victim and are abducted by the perpetrators, In addition to man coping with nature, Patrick and his daughter must face off against the worst of humankind—the lowlife predators that would enslave and exploit our children. My next project after that, Radio, a novel of World War II, is a fictionalized account of my family, this time from my mother’s comic and ironic point of view. As the soap operas of the era were described, it is the archetypal story of a shy, but talented Marine Corps wife, coping with child-rearing, learning to run a household in her husband’s absence and facing the daily terror that her husband may be assigned to the next island invasion. The family’s mainstay is radio, the magical voice from beyond that brings fearful news of the war, gainful employment for her in writing radio scripts and daily entertainment, with drama, the bracing music of the big band era and solidarity with her fellow Americans.
- Where can we can we buy your books? Crimes of Design, a Patrick MacKenna mystery, has been released in Kindle, Ebook and and Trade Paperback . Use the links below to get a copy:
Dad’s War with the United States Marines (Trade Paperback) can be purchased from Amazon.com
Many thanks to Claire, for her continued encouragement and support throughout my publishing career.
Till next time, good words to you,