I’ve Got Questions for Gary Eldon Peter

Oranges by Gary Eldon Peter
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

Oranges, a collection of short fiction, New Rivers Press, October 2018

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

The book focuses on Michael, a gay man from the Midwest, and really the trajectory of his life from childhood through middle age. He deals with coming out during the AIDS crisis, relationships, aging parents, and what it means to become an adult and to find connection and belonging in the world.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

It’s a linked short story collection, so in addition to the focus on the main character, there are other key characters that appear throughout the book. I’d like to think that, even though it’s not “technically” a novel, it sort of reads like one.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

I’ve had some readers take the time to reach out to me through my web site to tell me how much they appreciated the book and that the stories were very meaningful to them in capturing life experiences similar to theirs. To know that you’ve connected with your audience is such a personal way…for a writer, it doesn’t get much better than that.

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

Not surprisingly, I’m somewhat of a big fan of the linked story collection genre so I have definitely been influenced by similar books. I love Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, for example, and if my book is one-tenth as successful as a linked collection as her book is, I’d be happy. In other words, saying it’s “comparable” is a bit much for me, but I am comfortable saying that it aspires to be a book like that.

  • Why this book? Why now?

I think I wanted to tell the story of a life at particular point in time and in history, and I suppose my life in some ways, but trying to write a memoir didn’t seem the way to go, and a novel really didn’t either. So short stories it was, and it was way for me to draw upon my own experiences but also have a lot of freedom to “dramatize” feelings and situations in a way that worked for me…to think of discrete periods of time and experience and what they all add up to.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

Teaching, by far. It can be exhausting, but after doing other things that didn’t seem to fit (including working in the legal field), I can’t imagine doing anything else. It sounds cliché, I know, but you really do have a chance to make a difference in a person’s life.

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

A sense of history and perspective about what it means to be a GLBT+ person of a certain age in this country…to not forget the struggle to get to where we are today (which, given the current state of our politics, still feels tenuous in a lot of ways).

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

A lot of the book takes place in the seventies and eighties, which were such formative times for me. While I didn’t include much specifically in the way of music (looking back I wish I had!), I can very much feel those great disco anthems by Donna Summer, the Village People, Madonna, and many, many others when I think about certain stories, and even now when I think about those songs I’m back there in those times in two seconds.

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

I’m currently in the throes of wrapping up the fall semester so most of my reading is all about student papers, but once that’s finished I have a huge “to be read” pile to dive into over the semester break. I’m looking forward to Exile Music, a historical novel by Jennifer Steil, a friend and former MFA classmate from Sarah Lawrence, which is set in Vienna and Bolivia during World War II. For non-fiction, it’s Tell Me Your Names and I Will Testify, a collection of essays by Carolyn Holbrook, another friend, outstanding writer, and literary icon in the Twin Cities, where I live. I also can’t wait to get my hands on Olive, Again, the sequel to Olive Kitteridge.

Gary Eldon Peter

Learn more about Gary at his website.

Buy Oranges from Small Press Distribution or Bookshop or wherever books are sold.

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

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