Hey everybody. Welcome to the first ever House of 1000 Books author interview. Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you to Peter Hartog. He’s a Sci-Fi writer who recently released his first book called Bloodlines, and as you later find out in the interview, he is working on a second book called Pieces of Eight. He will tell you more about that in the conversation!
So with that, let’s get to it. Read on and enjoy the interview.
Topher H: Thanks for the time. I want to let you know that this is YOUR interview. If you want anything asked, feel free to write it in. If you want anything taken out, please feel free to take it out. I’m pretty easy on how we do this.
Let us start with what I like to call my series of hypothetical questions. Say, at the end of your career you had a chance to meet yourself before you began your writing career and you had a chance to tell yourself one thing about writing yourself about writing, what would it be?
Peter Hartog: Topher, thanks for the interview!
Since I’m at the beginning of my writing career, I have no idea what pitfalls lie between now and “the end”. But one thing has been clear from the get-go: you need a thick skin. Rejection is real and constant and the bane of anyone unprepared for it. If you can’t pick yourself up, you’ll never make it.
Writing, by itself, is its own reward. But for your work to be accepted, then published, that is an entirely different animal. I would remind myself to never give up, and to focus upon why I wrote Bloodlines, who inspired (and continues to inspire) me, and the boyhood dream that’s propelled me forward from the very beginning.
TH: Words have power. Some could lift a person others could destroy a person. Do you
recall an earlier time in your life where it dawned on you that language had the strength to do that?
PH: All you have to do is listen to Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream”, and that’s all you need to know about the positive, uplifting power of words. It’s so easy to fall prey to the antagonistic rhetoric of politics and so-called “noble” causes. The callous disregard of some folks that have a ready-made platform or create their own for the sole purpose of vilifying anyone who isn’t “you”, who doesn’t believe in what you believe, who aspire to bring down everyone else for personal gain. Those words, that power, is abused daily, and disgusts me. I combat that with treating people as I would want to be treated, and it’s something I try to reinforce with my children, so that they can incrementally help make the world a better place.
TH: What did your family members think about your writing when you first started it? Did they approve of it or did they think it was a waste of time?
PH: My wife, my greatest cheerleader and supporter, had been on my case for 14 years to write a novel. She became so tired of me manufacturing excuses as to why I wouldn’t, that she gave up pushing me a few years ago. When I finally sat down and put virtual pen to paper, she gave me a nod and a smile, then let me be me. I’ve only been met with support and encouragement, and I’m incredibly thankful for all of it.
TH: I read your bio, and in it, I saw that you may or may not Spider-man. I googled a fact; it turns out that Spider-man senses can be dulled. If you were Spider-man and your spidey senses were your writing, what could dull your spidey senses and slow down your writing of your book?
PH: Stress and exhaustion. My day job is both rewarding and taxing. I am the sole breadwinner in our family. Therefore, my focus is upon what pays the bills first. My own needs are secondary to my wife and my two boys.
Some days, I’m worn down by it all. When that happens, my creativity dies. I have no desire to sit before a screen and delve into strange new worlds. I’d much rather curl up and shut my mind off for a bit to recharge the batteries.
However, writing is like music. It ebbs and flows, flittering at the edge of my mind’s eye to soothe and cajole, inspire and engage. When the right tune pops on the radio or my iTunes, I start feeling the jazz and my mind races with possibilities. That’s when my “Spidey Sense” tingles, and I’m ready to blaze new adventures for Detective Tom Holliday and his eclectic team of malcontents.
TH: Hot off the press! You have a new book out. Can you please tell us about the book?
PH: I do!
The story is a blend of genres, combining elements of science fiction, crime, detective and urban fantasy. Think Blade Runner meets Harry Bosch and Harry Dresden.
It’s set in Empire City, a future dystopian version of New York City, where magic and technology co-exist, parallel dimensions spawn terrible threats, and humanity endures behind massive walls of stone and spell-forged steel.
Bloodlines follows the homicide investigation of a young woman, her body completely drained of blood down to a cellular level, and two eyewitnesses jacked on the designer drug Goldjoy claiming a vampire did it. Tom “Doc” Holliday, a disgraced homicide detective, is recruited to join Special Crimes, a semi-clandestine unit of special individuals solving cases by “any means necessary”.
Holliday is no stranger to the unusual. He possesses a fickle clairvoyance that he dubbed the “Insight” which allows him to see the dark and terrible things hiding upon his world. Throughout the novel, he also battles personal demons of his own – at the start of the story, he’s seven years removed from a corruption scandal, and a stint in a substance abuse rehab center where his girlfriend also committed suicide.
Accompanying Holliday is the irreverent Deacon Kole, a former Protector from the Confederate States of Birmingham, Leyla, a shrewd hacker who also wields magic, and Besim Saranda, an interdimensional being known as a Vellan with an agenda all her own.
From morgues and coffee houses, to underground drug labs and a foot-chase along the dirty streets of Empire City, the story ratchets up the intrigue, action, magic and suspense for a dark and fun ride.
Man, I just get goosebumps thinking about it!
TH: What made you want to write this book?
PH: Holliday’s story needed to be told, resonating with me unlike any other story I’d ever concocted before. The words flowed easily, and the chapters just piled up.
TH: Was there a goal in mind for the book?
PH: Yes. To write a complete novel. To share Holliday’s story with whoever wanted to read it. To prove to myself that I could do it.
TH: It takes a long time to write a book, how many hours a day did you write for?
PH: There’s no consistency to my writing time. With two young boys and a full-time job, my life is very busy. What I can say is I started in July of 2016 and hit the publish button August of 2018.
TH: After you wrote your first book, got it published, how did you change your thinking about writing?
PH: There’s writing, and the business of writing. I still know very little about the business end of things. A lot of that has to do with my lack of time as well as resources. If the question is solely about writing, my answer is I love every aspect of it, from planning, to writing, revising, editing, agonizing over plot points, discussing ideas with friends, or staring off into space wondering what’s next for my cast of crazy characters.
TH: Are any of the characters in the book based on real people? If so who?
PH: Leyla, Deacon and Besim are all based upon characters three of my best friends developed for our weekly Sunday night role-playing sessions. We’ve been gaming since the late 1980s, interrupted when I moved from Massachusetts to Georgia. They moved down here a few years later, and we’ve been table-topping ever since.
As for the actual story, I developed it and Empire City, then ran it as a role-playing game for my group for about a year and a half. I changed several aspects of their characters for novelization purposes, but essentially the renditions of Leyla, Deacon and Besim are a love letter to my friends, admiring their creative skills and paying homage to them as wonderful people.
TH: Do you wish that you would have written in anybody that you know of that you could just end up taking out your frustration out on? What would you do?
PH: No. That never comes up. It’s not in my nature to write in someone like that.
TH: How long did it take for your research for your book? How did you do it?
PH: Research was ongoing. Whenever I came up against something that I needed to know more about, I popped on the internet or checked in with some friends who are experts in certain fields. For example, a college friend of mine is a successful urologist in Long Island. I consulted with him regarding dialysis to make certain the chapter involving a similar process was handled accurately. In addition, another friend who is an Episcopalian minister in Michigan assisted me with a challenging chapter late in the novel that involves the taking of a life. As an author, authenticity and accuracy are keys to a successful story. I’m very thankful I know a lot of experts!
TH: What’s next for you? What are you working on?
PH: The sequel! It’s currently entitled Pieces of Eight. I’m slogging through chapter 22 and hope to have the first draft finished by the end of this year.
TH: Is your next book a sequel to the first where both books tie together? Or are you trying to keep them separate?
PH: See above.
TH: Did you edit anything out of the book so you could use it in the second book?
PH: I have several chapter’s worth of writing that I kept in case I needed it. So far, I haven’t used any, but you just never know!
TH: Is there anything that you want to add? Anything you want your readers to know?
PH: Every writer wishes he or she could make the NY Times list. Breaking into the traditional publishing industry feels like bludgeoning your head against a wall repeatedly, then doing it more when you think you can’t take it.
The truth is, you can’t give up.
I’ll continue to query literary agents, and maybe move on to publishers. However, make no mistake: there is no shame in self-publishing
That’s not why I’m continuing my search for representation, either. I simply want to see my book in a bookstore, just like every other writer out there. I’m extremely proud of my membership in the independently published ranks. There are oodles of extremely talented, and equally unheralded indies out there. And I will continue to support them on Twitter by purchasing their work and giving them as much exposure as an indie like me can provide.
Bloodlines is an entertaining story that combines many classic tropes into what I think is a pretty damn good book. It has all the elements a reader wants – humor, emotion, action, unique characters and a story to back it all up.
Sure, I’m biased, but I think if you give it a read, you might just think the same thing.
Thank you for your time.
TH: And thank you for your time!