Debut Fiction Panel Discussion - August 30, 2012 discussion

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Questions for Peter

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message 1: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Brown | 9 comments Mod
If you have a question about Peter Heller's novel The Dog Stars, please ask it here.


message 2: by GeraniumCat (new)

GeraniumCat | 3 comments The Dog Stars was a bit outside my normal range of reading, but I enjoyed it very much. I wondered about the influences on your writing? I thought I detected echoes of St-Exupery there - not just the in the obvious way, that there was quite a lot about flying, but Hig seemed to me to have a lot of the innocence of the Little Prince? I hadn't expected, at the start, that he was going to turn out to be such a nice guy...


message 3: by Andrea (new)

Andrea O | 2 comments This book is sitting on the tech services office of our library; I'm excited to take it out once it's ready! Can you talk about why you put your main character in a plane? I feel like there are many stories in which the characters are making the best of what's left on land.


message 4: by Hellerpete (new)

Hellerpete | 9 comments Geranium wrote: "The Dog Stars was a bit outside my normal range of reading, but I enjoyed it very much. I wondered about the influences on your writing? I thought I detected echoes of St-Exupery there - not just t..."

Great question, Geranium. And perceptive. St-Exupery's Wind, Sand, and Stars made a big impression on me. I loved the simplicity, the descriptions of the land and of flying, and the vulnerability--even the innocence--of sailing out into the night in one of those old undependable planes, the grace, the humility of accepting the adventure and the danger not as something heroic but as a prerequisite to leading a rich life. I think Hig in The Dog Stars has much of that sensibility. There are a lot of poets who influenced me, especially in the music of their writing: Yeats (the building cadence and repetitions in Prayer for My Daughter), TS Eliot and the music in his stunning Four Quartets, Derek Wolcott, Emily DIckinson, Neruda. But you caught a big one!


message 5: by Hellerpete (new)

Hellerpete | 9 comments Andrea wrote: "This book is sitting on the tech services office of our library; I'm excited to take it out once it's ready! Can you talk about why you put your main character in a plane? I feel like there are man..."

Andrea, the simplest and probably least satisfying answer is that Hig is in a plane a lot because he is a pilot and just loves to fly. The wonderful thing about fiction, for me, who has written non-fiction for three decades, is that characters tend to often act on their own, and just be themselves, and surprise us, despite our intentions as authors. But I love that he is in a plane! Because I too love to fly my 1956 Cessna 182. If I tell you it has the same tail number, N6333A, you may feel as one reader put it: This is egregious autobiography! Well. I can't cook and I have never shot anyone... Thanks for the good question.


message 6: by GeraniumCat (new)

GeraniumCat | 3 comments I didn't spot the Eliot and Yeats (who'd be the poets I know best out of your list) but I did note the lyricism as something I liked very much about your book. Maybe a touch of Hemingway there too?

I guessed you had to have a pilot's licence - and you obviously love the outdoors. Did you have an Uncle Pete who taught you to hunt and fish? And a dog like Jasper? (We don't have blue heelers here in the UK but I found a picture of an Australian sheepdog...is that the right sort of look?) When you were growing up did you really long to be the boy in My Side of the Mountain?


message 7: by Hellerpete (new)

Hellerpete | 9 comments Yes! I mean I wanted to be that boy. Hemingway was huge, you're right. I grew up in Brooklyn. The librarian at school handed me In Our Time when I was eleven. I was agog. I wanted to fish like that, and camp in the erns like that, and make cowboy coffee and be with a girl that could row and fish and was too good for me, and write about it all, LIKE THAT. So it began an arc I am still on. ABout the blue heeler mix. If you go to my website, I just posted a picture of Jasper.


message 8: by GeraniumCat (new)

GeraniumCat | 3 comments Brilliant, thanks - he's beautiful! And the Cessna too. Love that you wanted a girl who could row and fish - Cima had a long genesis?

One of the things I liked about Dog Stars was that I kept stopping to think while I was reading, especially about how you decide whether you have more right to live than another person. I guess I'd be more likely to be with the Amish than holed up on an airfield, but it makes Hig's relationship with Bangley all the more interesting. It's good to engage with these questions from time to time.

I'm packing it in for the day - getting late here and early start tomorrow - so thanks for answering my questions! A final one - any plans for the next novel? I'll certainly read the next.


message 9: by Hellerpete (new)

Hellerpete | 9 comments Halfway through the next! It's a secret....

Have a good one. Thanks for the fun discussion.


message 10: by Mark (last edited Aug 31, 2012 08:24AM) (new)

Mark Maynard (markmaynard) | 2 comments Peter,
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Dog Stars" and liked that you applied the innate humor and perseverance that humans can have in the face of any tragic situation -- it rarely surfaces in novels that tackle a similar theme.

I was wondering about your background as a journalist and non-fiction writer and its influence on your novel. Having written things where you knew how they resolved -- did you write with a rough outline in mind or did you start with a situation or characterization and then let the plot roll out organically?

Where did the book begin? What scene was the first that you wrote?


message 11: by Lacygnette (new)

Lacygnette | 1 comments I just finished Dog Star and loved it. My question is did you know from the beginning you were going to end on a note of hope? The first half was so bleak (with the beauty of flying), but the second half mitigated it.

BTW, I loved the bit about the lambs tied up in the plane and the mc comments maybe they think that's what happens next in a young lamb's life. Wonderful!


message 12: by Hellerpete (new)

Hellerpete | 9 comments Thanks for your feedback. No, to tell you the truth I didn't plan much. I just kind of let Hig start talking and wrote into his story and it ended up the way it did. Must have been thinking about it for years. Yeah, I love the lambs, too. Thanks.


message 13: by Hellerpete (new)

Hellerpete | 9 comments Patrick, I had written so much non-fiction and journalism where I always knew what the ending would be and what would happen next--of course, because they did happen. I couldn't wait to be surprised, thrilled, scared, jolted with hilarity. So I started with a first line and wrote into the story. it was thrilling. Like kayaking a river you've never done and coming to a tight bend and not knowing what would be around the corner. And once you start making it all up, there's no going back. You realize that as a journalist that's what you always wanted to do all along! Cheers


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Debut Fiction Panel Discussion - August 30, 2012

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