Richard E. Peck Interview

One Jim West by Richard E. Peck

Richard E. Peck is an author, playwright, and retired academic with 12 produced plays (three of them winners in national competitions), a score of short stories, a novel nominated as Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year (Final Solution, Doubleday), and TV scripts, as well as two editions of minor poetry.
Author page on Amazon: Richard E. Peck

What motivates you to write and how did you get started?
I love stories. I love hearing them and telling them. And writing them down gives them more permanence than simple recitation can. When I was a kid and walked a mile to school with my brother, sister, and neighbor, I told them stories on the way. When I ran out of my own I looked up more them at the library and passed off the Paul Bunyan Tales as my own. Stories tellers can be shameless.

What’s most rewarding about writing?
Part way through the story I think I’m gong to tell, the characters take over and start misbehaving, and – though the story eventually gets to the conclusion I’d imagined when beginning the tale – it gets there through circuitous routes that surprise and please me.

You write in many genres, what’s your favorite and why?
I like crime stories for the puzzles they present, and for the chance to watch characters pushed to extremes to see how they behave.

Where do your characters come from?
They probably start out as someone I’ve met (and don’t understand) or are included in the story as foils or contrasts to the character that interests me most, the lead.

Who is an author who inspires you and why?
An easy one: my next book (out in Oct?) is a paperback reprint of DEAD PAWN, this time dedicated “to the memory of Elmore Leonard, crime writer nonpareil, who taught us all.” His dialog was always RIGHT, his plotting both surprising and inevitable, and the single word that define his fiction for me is “crisp.”

What do you look for in other people’s books?
Characters I recognize, even if I’ve never met them before, economy, precise diction, and a conclusion that makes want to write a sequel. (I don’t write one.)

What are you writing now?
I’m revisiting my ten produced plays, all comedies of a sort, and preparing them for publication. One concerns a man’s attempt to tie off loose ends in the time left to him. Another’s a farce that stars the doorways, entrances and exits. Four are one-acts that will comprise my next book, all four in one volume, as well as separate “monographs.” I want each to be more of what it already is.

What kind of book would you like to be known for?
A book that readers will return to and enjoy re-reading. I’d hope a second reading would offer surprises missed at first look.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’m surprised at my own energy. Each new story makes me think of two or three others that could “follow” it. And I like revising. If I went back to reread my answers to your questions (above), I’d probably spend twice as long revising them as I did writing them in the first place.

What encouraging advice can you offer new writers?
In a calm personal voice, write the story you’d like to hear told you. Nobody really wants to read a book full of inflated “literary” language or self-indulgent “shouting.”

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