Writer in the Spotlight
This month's writer in the spotlight, Peter Clenott, received some very good news in August of last year when his book, Hunting the King, was picked up by Kunati Booksand hailed by Booklist as an "intellectual thriller."
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First off, congratulations, Peter! I guess we all know how hard it is to get that first novel published! Can you tell us a little bit about Kunati?
Yes, they accept manuscripts from writers without agents. I know. I was and still am one. They have published authors from the US, Canada, England and Australia, mostly fiction but several non-fiction, as well.
Their site looks great! I see when you go to the home page, it's the cover of your book that's there! How did you find out they wanted the book?
I always wondered how I would find out someone wanted my novel, either an agent or a publisher. In this case, they emailed me on a typical Thursday morning. The publisher wanted me to contact him about making an offer. It took me a good hour to get the courage to open the email, I was so afraid it was just another rejection. You can imagine my feelings when I read the message. I have saved it, by the way.
That's worthy of framing!
How long was it between submitting the manuscript to seeing the published product?
I sent the first three chapters and synopsis to them in late March. They said that four members of their staff had to read and approve before they would ask for the full manuscript. They asked for the full manuscript in early April and said it would take four months before they would get back to me. Again, they required four enthusiastic reviews before they would make an offer. When I didn't hear from them in August, I sent a polite status update request. On August 3, the editor replied, saying two people had read the novel and liked it. On the 8th, the editor got back to me with the offer. The book is coming out on April 2, a year to the day the publisher asked to see the full manuscript.
How has Kunati helped with marketing and promotion?
The publisher is small and young and so asks their authors to do a lot of the promotion. However, the company sends out galleys and advanced copies for each novel to get reviews from such fundamentally important literary organizations as Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Foreword Magazine. The company has a large email list and contacts all independent bookshops in the United States and Canada. The book is available on a variety of sites in the US and Europe. The company develops publicity material and sends out a publicity packet to stores, libraries, newspapers and other book reviewers. The company made a magnificent trailer of the novel, which is like watching the coming attractions to a movie.
Where can we see it?
You Tube, where else? Here's the link: YouTube
Most reviews compare Hunting the King to The Da Vinci Code. How do you feel about that?
For marketing purposes, it is great. I do the same when I reach out to people. My hope is that they will find the novel to be richer, with stronger characters and a deeper plot. I want Hunting the King and the protagonist Molly O'Dwyer to stand on their own. Ultimately, I would prefer people comparing their books to mine rather than mine to someone else's. Unless it's Shakespeare. Then I won't have a seizure.
Well nothing against The Da Vinci Code, but I felt your book was a lot more substantial. Your characters felt a lot more robust to me; they had real personalities, they weren't just vehicles for telling a story.
I developed the main character, Molly O'Dwyer in Traces of a Life, which was the original story. She was raised by a mother she was very attached to, but who died when Molly was a child. Despite all that she has been through into adulthood, she has never quite lost that need for her mother. It is [art of what motivates her. I do try to develop all of my characters as fully as I can. Before I begin writing, I do a biography on each one of them, including the minor characters. I might never use a feature of the character, but it is always in the back of my mind as I am writing their dialogue or creating their reactions. I don't think a book would be fun if you didn't enjoy the people you were living with as you were writing.
Hunting the King shows a thorough knowledge of Iraq, the geography and culture. Sounds if you're familiar with the place. Have you been?
Being a poor working guy who can't afford to travel to Brockton, I have never been close to Iraq. Nor am I involved with the war effort. Whatever I know about Iraq has come from thorough internet research, books, photos, other people's descriptions. If I am treading in an area where I feel uncomfortable, I gather as much detail as possible and try to make it appear as if I have been there. If I can't get a clear vision, I move on. I hope that the result will be a believable read.
|I think a lot of readers will enjoy that part of the book that takes place here in the Boston area. That's always a fun connection. How important are details about location to you when you write?
I try to be as detailed as I can. Obviously, having lived in Boston and explored all of its neighborhoods, I am much more comfortable describing a scene in Dorchester or the Sough End than I am writing a scene at Abu Ghraib prison. The sequel to Hunting the King, Traces of a Life, takes place entirely in Boston.
Is Traces of a Life finished?
Yes. Although, because Hunting the King ended up being the first novel published, I had to go back into Traces and do some rewriting to make it clear that it was now the sequel. Readers will get even deeper into Molly O'Dwyer here. But that, of course, if the craziness of writing. I have written two other novels since Hunting the King, neither of which feature Molly.
Do you write any short fiction or poetry?
When I first started writing, I did a few Twilight Zone-styled short stories, such as the one where the Mafia hit man, through a quirk in time travel, ends up killing himself throughout eternity. As for poems, I have incorporated one in Hunting the King, although it is in the form of a biblical lamentation. In a novel I completed after Hunting the King, an anti-war novel, They Were Called to Duty, one of the main characters is a southern poet. I wrote a few poems in his hands.
Has They Were Called to Duty been accepted for publication, too?
No, although I have sent it along with Traces of a Life to Kunati Books. Whether or not they will have an interest in them, I can't say. Houghton Mifflin gave a good read to Duty, said that the novel should find a home, but not with HM. Why, I don't know.
Where can someone get a copy of Hunting the King?
Online, it will be available on Amazon.com. Buy.com, Barnes & Noble, Powells Books and several other sites. It should also be available at Barnes and Nobles, Borders or many independent book stores. Part of my promotional campaign is to set up as many book events/signings as possible at book stores throughout New England and to get them to order the book.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Peter, and good luck with the book!
One thing that has come out of getting published has been the wonderful networking with other writers, readers, literary folks in general. I have long wanted to be a successful writer and understand that this may be my one shot at it. Good luck indeed.