My guest today is a young man, the progress of whose writing career I have been watching with great delight. I have interviewed him before and am very pleased to be given the chance to catch up with him.
For readers who haven’t met you before, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
Hi again Elin! I’m Andrew J. Peters, or Andy is just fine. I’m a fantasy author with a particular interest in retold myth and legend. More often than not I write about gay characters.
My two main projects are the Werecat series and a series based on the legend of Atlantis, which started with the début novel The Seventh Pleiade.
Besides writing, I’ve spent a good portion of my career as a social worker and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. I currently work at a university teaching social work students.
I wish I had some quirky hobby or special knack to share. Between my day job and my writing, there doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day for me to cultivate much in the way of eccentricities, or maybe I’m not cut out to be an eccentric author-type. I am married to a wonderful guy, and we do like to travel outside of the U.S. for vacations and see movies and Broadway shows. Oh, here’s something: a secret confession and guilty pleasure. I sneak in some awful reality TV-watching every now and then. Survivor and The Amazing Race are my favorites, and I will pretty much watch any Real Housewives series.
Thanks so much for having me back. Your comfy chair seems even comfier. Have you restuffed the cushions?
How’s Chloe? Still being a supportive Muse I hope.
Chloë is lovely. We just celebrated her six year birthday last month. She gets more ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ and ‘shares’ than anything else I post on social media, so I do owe her quite a lot for helping with my author profile; or perhaps it’s just her profile.
In terms of being a supportive muse however, I think the better word might be grudging. She sees my work space as a place to bat around the mouse and keyboard, or sit on top of the keyboard at times.
Since you started the first Werecat book, has the world you built developed in any interesting or unexpected ways? Has this been a help or a hindrance?
The biggest challenge for me has been that the hero of the story Jacks went on the run to places that I’ve never been. In the first two books, he started out in upstate New York, Montréal and New York City, all of which I’m very familiar with. Circumstances have him needing to leave the country and go to the Caribbean. That’s where the third installment The Fugitive picks up.
I chose Barbados as Jacks’ first destination after doing some research. There’s a storyline about hidden assets in an off-shore bank, and it turns out that Barbados is a popular place for such transactions. It was tough for me to take the story there. I really had to approach the setting like a meticulous tourist planning a vacation. I read up on the country’s history, geography, people, points of interest, etc. in order to describe the place with some integrity. I used Google Earth to “look” at certain areas of the island, even tracking out a path for Jacks when he’s snooping around a private yacht club.
Next up for Jacks is Venezuela, the rain forests of the Amazon and possibly the Yucatan in Mexico. If I had the resources, I’d visit those places before writing about them, but that’s probably not going to be possible.
Does having your work on paper FEEL different to a regular e-release?
I am really happy that my publisher decided to put the first three installments of Werecat together in a paperback. I do like having my work in print. I put my books on a bookshelf and glance at them fondly every now and then.
It also feels great to be able to sign my books at events in that old-fashioned way. I know some authors send fans autographed postcards or bookmarks for their e-books, and I’ve done some of that. But it doesn’t feel quite the same as signing the actual book. It doesn’t seem like it’s quite as meaningful for fans either.
Shifter fiction falls within the bounds of the paranormal genre but how do you feel about the paranormal in real life? Have you ever had an experience for which there was no accounting by the normal laws of physics?
I haven’t had any personal experiences with the paranormal, but I keep an open mind. Living with cats has helped in that regard. I almost said being a “cat owner” there, but I think “living with” is a more accurate way of putting it.
Folks who have cats can back me up here. I think it’s pretty apparent that they see and hear things that we humans can’t perceive. If you’ve ever watched a cat staring intensely at a corner of a wall or a ceiling while nothing is going on, you know what I mean.
Sometimes there’s an ordinary explanation – a tiny bug that they’ve zoned in on or a noise too faint for a human to hear. But I don’t doubt that it’s possible that cats sense otherworldly things as well that are imperceptible to us. I see no reason why there wouldn’t be ghosts living among us for example, or perhaps some trace of energy from a deceased person attached to certain objects that were special to them.
That little theory of mine played a role in the development of the Werecat story. It’s a world where house cats or strays have a psychic connection to feline shifters, and they’re able to alert their human companions to a threat, or alternatively do some mischief on behalf of their shifter brethren.
Of all your characters, who have you enjoyed writing most – least – whose voice was the most troublesome to catch?
Some of the supporting characters in Werecat have been the most fun to write. Farzan, the boyfriend of the main character Jacks, is a self-described “gay Persian with Attention Deficit Disorder.” He’s a high-strung, self-deprecating, long-suffering, funny guy who gets lots of humorous dialogue and becomes pretty instantly endearing I think. In The Fugitive, Jacks meets a roguish shifter named Maarten who was fun to write as well. Maarten is a composite of some young trust-funders I’ve known – disaffected, entitled, yet charming in spite of his faults.
I’d say overall that Jacks actually challenges me the most. I think most hero characters get channeled from the author’s personality, and I’ll cop to that with Jacks to the extent that I went back to some of my own feelings and experiences as a young gay man in writing him.
But for Jacks to do the things he does, being a real “action character,” it had me working on characterization that is quite far aloft of my decidedly mild and introspective personality. He certainly makes decisions I would never have made. He goes home with a stranger that he meets in the park for example, and he takes on big cat shifters who are bigger and stronger than he is.
I’ve had readers tell me that they’re angry at Jacks because of the risky situations he gets into, and some readers think that he’s naïve and dumb. I wanted to write Jacks as a young man who views the world in simple terms. He does get led astray by his hormones at times and his youthful sense of invulnerability. At a glance, I’d probably call him dumb as well. But as the story develops, Jacks is faced with some pretty extraordinary problems, and I see him as a guy who gets through things by not wavering from his convictions. There’s no ambiguity for him, just right and wrong. That makes him quite different from other heroes I’ve written that tend to get caught up in their heads for a while before making a decision.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am polishing up a follow-up novel to The Seventh Pleiade, which is the story of a young gay prince who becomes a hero during the last days of Atlantis. The new book is Banished Sons of Poseidon. It will be coming out in late 2015, and it picks up with the survivors of the flood.
Could we please have an excerpt?
Sure, I’m happy to share an excerpt. Here’s a bit from the opening pages of the novel. People who have read The Seventh Pleiade will remember the character Dam who is at the center of the missing boys scandal while the island-city is celebrating a national festival and coming apart at the seams in many ways. The second book continues the story from Dam’s perspective. His cousin Aerander was the hero of the first book.
There was a hot water lake that the boys used for bathing not far beyond the Old Ones’ underground city. The lake was embanked in black rock, and in the cast of torchlight, its sediment-rich waters glowed as blue and bright as a summer sky.
Dam pitted his metal torch in a cleft in the bank. It cast an aura of light a few yards onto the water and up the black shore. Beyond that stunted perimeter, everything was obscure and still. Dam had heard that the barren country around the lake had once been crisscrossed with lava floes, but that was in ages past. All that was left was dry craters and scarred troughs through rolling fields of rock, and none of that could be seen at the time when Dam was out. The Old Ones had shuttered the watchtower where they kept their brilliant Oomphalos that washed a thrumming, red, crystalline tide over the underworld. The sun never graced Agartha, the continent below the earth, so the Old Ones uncovered and eclipsed their magical relic at intervals to give the aboveground refugees some routine of day and night.
The boys weren’t supposed to venture out of the city unless they were in threes or fours. Two nights ago, a stranger had been sighted stalking around the deep canyon beyond the city drawbridge. Dam wouldn’t have trekked out that way on his own, but the backcountry of dead lava fields seemed like safe territory. He was used to coming and going as he wanted to. Aboveground, where he had been a novice priest, he had snuck out from the walled priest’s precinct at night all the time just to walk the city streets and feel some freedom.
If his cousin Aerander found out that he had gone to the bathing lake by himself, he’d get a scolding. Those lectures never rooted themselves as much as they groped to find a hold in Dam’s head. Dam was sixteen years old. He had been minding his own way long before they had come underground. Aerander was sixteen too so he had no business telling Dam this or that anyway. Dam thought they had sorted those things out a while ago, but since Aerander had taken on leading the survivors, he fell back on his bossy ways sometimes.
Dam stripped off his sandals and his tunic, laid them on the bank and delicately made his way into the water. It was plenty warm. The whole region around the city stayed at a mild temperature due to heat that rose up from the lava pits in the shelf below. But the initial sensation entering the lake was always strange, going from dry to wet. Since Dam had been living in the sunless underworld, it was like his skin had become more sensitive while his eyes had grown lazy from lack of use.
Dam imagined his body soaking up the minerals of the lake, making him strong like iron. That was what happened when the Old Ones’ warriors bathed there so they said. He plunged his head beneath the water, disappearing into the otherworldly murmur of the pool. Afterward, his skin would feel as smooth as a stone washed by the sea.
There was only one detriment to bathing in the mineral lake. Since Dam had given up the habits of the priesthood and stopped shaving his head, the sediment-rich waters made his thick black hair coarse and unruly when it dried. Whenever he caught his reflection in the silver-plated walls along the Grand Promenade into town, he was startled and amused by what he had become. He looked like the child of savages raised in the depths of a jungle. The Old Ones didn’t have the grooming soaps and oils that people used aboveground. Dam didn’t mind. It suited him fine to look a bit wild, especially considering the strange new country where he was living.
Dam swam out farther from the bank, beyond the patina of torchlight. He didn’t know how extensive the lake was or if it ever got deep. For as far as he had ever swam, he could touch down on the rocky floor. The water only reached to his clavicle. He dove for the bottom, did a hand stand and kicked out with his feet. That made a noisy splash. Dam crested the water and gathered some sense. If he was going to sneak out on his own, he had to remember to be quiet about it.
His ears keened in on a disturbance. He looked across the shrouded lava field. Four then five then six fuzzy globes of light approached the bank of the lake. There were bantering, howling voices. Dam trudged quietly toward his torch and his clothes. It was boys and likely no one he would relish to run into. They had probably come out to practice wrestling in the lake, and they would harass whoever they came across.
Woefully, Dam had swum out too far to make it to the bank before the noisy group pitted their torches in the ground. Dam drifted back to the shadowed side of the lake. He didn’t want to look like a coward scurrying out of the water from the sight of them. It was best to go unnoticed and wait for them to leave. But his torch, sandals and tunic back on the shore announced a bather in the lake blatantly.
From his distance, Dam watched a tall member of the crew step to the edge of the water. He looked like he was peering out to the lake in Dam’s direction. The boy mumbled something to the others, and then they all shucked their clothes and went bombarding into the water.
So much for a peaceful getaway.
The Werecat series: The Rearing, The Glaring, and The Fugitive
by Andrew J Peters
The first three installments of the Werecat series: The Rearing, The Glaring, and The Fugitive, in one paperback.
Twenty-two-year-old Jacks is on a mission to drown his past in alcohol when he meets the handsome drifter Benoit on a lost weekend in Montréal. It’s lust and possibly something more. Jacks never suspects that a drunken hook-up will plunge him into the hidden, violent world of feline shifters.
Benoit traps him in an arcane ritual to be joined as mates, from which Jacks emerges with fantastical abilities and a connection to Native traditions that were buried by his family. But his new existence pits his human instincts against his wild animal nature. When Jacks meets the young medical student Farzan, who wants to be with Jacks no matter what or who he is, Benoit’s feline jealousy rages like an inferno.
Jacks must figure out how to survive with his dual nature and a boyfriend who will kill any threat to their relationship. When a secret society called The Glaring shows up with a plan to exterminate humankind, Jacks will have to work quickly to gain command of Benoit’s magic before the world shatters into a war of man against beast.
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