Today my guest is Peter Clenott, author of the adventure thriller novel, Devolution. Peter is a graduate of Bowdoin College and hails from Portland, Maine. He is the author of the archaeological adventure Hunting the King and currently has three children and lives in Haverhill.
Thank you for this interview, Peter. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I began writing after I took my last college exam. That was back in May 1973. Had I known before I went to college that I wanted to be a writer, I would have done things very differently and the result might have been more successful. I learned my craft as I went and have tried to follow my heart, not writing in any particular genre but based upon ideas that intrigue me.
Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
Devolution features sixteen-year-old Chiku Flynn. Chiku was born and raised in the Congolese rainforest by two parents who are anthropologists studying the local chimpanzee population. For the first eleven years of her life, she is more chimpanzee than child, nesting with the chimpanzees, grooming with them, eating ants and termites from stem tools. When her mother dies, she is sent back to the United States to become an out-of-control teenager, medicated for attention deficit, hyperactivity, mood disorder, anxiety. She can’t cope. Then her father disappears and Chiku returns to the jungle where the wild child rediscovers her true self. In Swahili Chiku means’ chatterbox’ but the chimpanzees of the Maiku National Park, with whom she can communicate using sign language, know her simply as Talk Talk.
Who is your intended audience? Have you been able to crossover into other audiences as well?
Exactly. I am looking for crossover with this novel. While the main character is a teenager and will have appeal to the young adult audience, adults will also find this an entertaining page-turner, educational and inspirational, as well.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
In this case, I saw what my own sixteen-year-old daughter was reading. Back in the 1970s I wrote a very early adaptation of this novel based upon work anthropologists were doing using sign language with chimpanzees. I added Chiku and turned it into a much finer work.
Do you ever experience self-doubts with your work?
I don’t doubt my writing. I am frustrated with the marketing end of it, something all writers must contend with these days. How do you let people know you have written something worthy of their attention?
Where do you write? Do you have a favorite place?
I can write almost anywhere. Before computers, I would take a notebook, eraser and sharpened pencils down to the Charles River in Boston and write. Now I can just hunker down in my apartment, or when my boss isn’t looking, at work. I used to be afraid of the computer, that I would write several hundred pages, then forget to save it. Now I love what I can do on my laptop.
What kind of research did you have to do during the writing process?
For this particular book, I had to learn about chimpanzee society and the work anthropologists did teaching them sign language. I also had to learn as much as I could about the history of the Congo.
Who is your publisher and how did you get accepted by them? Did you pitch your book yourself or go through an agent?
Imajin Books is the publisher. My debut novel came out in 2008, published by a small Canadian outfit. Cheryl Tardif, the founder of Imajin, was one of the writers also published by that same Canadian company. I sent my novel directly to her and, thankfully, she accepted. I am represented by a Parisian agent who is trying to sell the novel overseas.
How are you promoting your book thus far?
Pump Up Your Book is helping to arrange a blog tour and to run a Rafflecopter contest. As with everyone else, I am trying to create a presence on Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads. I have done a cable interview and will be doing the same on radio in September. I am also going into local high schools to talk about creative writing, and I will be contacting the local newspapers and other potential sources for reviews. Some bookstores are also open to buying copies.
If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Think out of the box. Everyone is doing the same thing, using Facebook, Twitter and the social media sites to promote their work. Patience is important as your book may pick up steam the more people read it and pass their enthusiasm along. Anyone who likes your book, make sure they post a review on Amazon. Consider your market and try to figure every means of focusing on them.
What’s next for you?
Marketing, marketing, marketing. On the back burner for a long time has been a novel tentatively called Comrade Lolita, based upon the Puerto Rican nationalists who tried to assassinate Harry Truman and shoot up the House of representatives in the early 1950s.
Thank you for this interview, Peter. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web?
I am on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/peter.clenott.1
My web page is at www.peterclenott.net
Amazon (My God, I’m everywhere!!) http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Clenott/e/B001JP0SAC
Here is the Imajin site: http://www.imajinbooks.com/upcoming-titles/