Interview with Peter Felton, author of “Tommy Wrought: A Musical Reflection Of Children With Special Needs”

How important is research to you when writing a book?

Seeing as I enjoy writing nonfiction, research is very important to me when writing a book. You have to know your stuff and make sense out of it for yourself and for your readers from beginning to end.

What inspires you to write?

Music is the #1 inspiration for my writing. The poetic flow of song lyrics and powerful messages conveyed within their memorable language are what drive me to express myself in similar ways literarily.

How often do you write?

I write as often as I can—at least once per week.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

Writers can definitely be in their/our own worlds mentally, but that does not stop us from having and spending quality time with friends and families of our own.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Getting into the rhythm of writing can be the trickiest thing about the craft. If you are on a time constraint, struggling to come up with an idea, or come down on yourself too hard when putting words on paper, finding a smooth mental flow of writing can sometimes take a while.

What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

Nothing is easier than discussing what you like and what is important to you—opportunities for which are endless when it comes to writing!

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Although you cannot judge a book by its cover, having a strong first impression on your readers visually and/or linguistically via your cover and title will often open their eyes in one way or another and spark their interest in your work.

Do you read any of your own work?

I do read my own work before and after it gets published. Along the way, when writing and editing, I always try to think about how my language and ideas would look and sound through the eyes of my readers. As a result, I become satisfied with the results when reading the finished product before and after it goes to print.

Tell us about your writing style; how is it different from other writers?

I like to emphasize humor and “sentence poetry” (sentences containing words that rhyme within their syntax) all throughout my writing. That way, my intentionally dense writing style—containing lengthy sentences with underlying multidimensional concepts and detailed information—can be taken lightly as well as seriously.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I put my heart and soul into my books. I write about what I believe in and am passionate about, integrating personal life experiences and viewpoints about delicate, political issues into my writing. I want my readers to get a sense of who I am within my books.

How realistic are your books?

Since my books fall under the nonfiction category, they are 100% realistic in their outlook! I am a realist and literal thinker who writes about what he knows and loves, sharing deep thoughts and feelings in my honest language. However, I make it a point to open up the floor for imagination and further discussion to occur on the parts of my readers when perusing my books.

Is there anything you are currently working on that may intrigue the interest of your readers?

Since so much of my adult life revolves around education and children, I am currently envisioning my third book—focusing on the variety of schools that make up the world of American education, and the learning, social, and professional environments and experiences that go along with them.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I tend to go overboard in making my language brash and bold in order to effectively convey my ideas, including as many details as possible. Consequently, I become a perfectionist in my writing, which can have an effect on the ease of the process.

Writers are often believed to have a Muse; your thoughts on that?

I agree with the idea that writers have a muse. Whatever fuels our passion and ignites our interest in putting pen to paper (or fingertips to computer keyboard as the case may be), we will stick to it throughout the creative process.

Which writer’s work do you believe most resembles your work?

My favorite songwriter of all time is Pete Townshend of The Who. In 1982, he wrote and The Who performed a five-and-one-half minute song entitled “Cry If You Want”—featured as the closing song on their album It’s Hard released that same year, marking the end of The Who’s initial 18-year career as a band before for their first (but far from permanent) breakup. The aforementioned song features rhythmic martial-style drumming from former Who drummer Kenney Jones, piercing lyrics written by guitarist Pete Townshend, articulated at breakneck speed by lead singer Roger Daltrey—treating the audience to a mind-blowing experience of the sheer power of lyrical language when articulated in such a fierce manner. Although not my favorite song by The Who, “Cry If You Want” resembles my written work because it contains a fast pace of language, rhythm, and melody that strings the audience along like a racecar driver, allowing all “followers” to catch their breath from the immense literary intake at the end of the thrilling ride!

Do you have a day job other than being a writer? And do you like it?

Besides being a writer, I work as a tutor and substitute teacher. I enjoy my work as an educator very much, and am always making every effort to improve my teaching craft, like I do with my writing.

Is it true that anyone can be a writer?

Absolutely! Because you can write about ANYTHING! So get started!

How does it feel when you don’t get the recognition you deserve?

Speaking as a teacher, it truly feels terrible when people don’t respect you for all of your hard work and dedication. But often times, you will find that the people around you appreciate you more than you may think or feel—when you least expect it.

They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

It really depends on the individual book and movie. Regardless of the actors or directors of the films, as long as the cinematic plot stays true to that of the original literary work, with characters and events being portrayed in similar lights as to how they were conceived cover-to-cover, in the end a movie will do a book justice.

Have you ever marketed your own books yourself?

All the time! An author knows their work better than anyone else, so it only seems natural for the writer to promote their own books themselves.

Whose work do you enjoy reading the most?

Although I do not have a favorite author, I do have a hankering for nonfiction in the form of biographies and memoirs written about or by U.S. Presidents or musical and sports celebrities. I also really like children’s literature, seeing as I am an educator. My favorite children’s books are Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs by Judi and Ron Barrett; The Berenstain Bears series by Stan & Jan Berenstain; the Arthur book series by Marc Brown; and The Iron Giant: A Story In Five Nights by Ted Hughes.

Do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?

It can be challenging to write about perspectives that clash with your own. But if you research them well enough to present a levelheaded argument in writing, even though you do not agree with their sentiments, your knowledge of their objectives will shine through.

Do you make your own vocabulary words in your book or resort to the existing ones?

I love creating puns within my writing; it is my sense of humor. I also enjoy using different infinitives of various vocabulary words when opportunities and coincidences arise within whole sentences in my writing—to humor and educate my readers all at once.

Was it all too easy for you – the writing, the publication, and the sales?

Sales come and go. As for the writing, I am proud that the process bore an overall smooth, full-speed-ahead modus operandi—bringing lots of smiles to my face throughout the writing and editing, allowing me to finish my book before my own deadline. In terms of publication: since my first book was professionally done, the self-selected self-publishing process became a valuable learning experience for me when it came time for my second book to see the light of day. I would definitely do it again!

How did it feel when your first book got published?

It felt like one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, with a new beginning in my professional horizons!

What is your motivation for writing more?

As long as I feel like I have something important and valuable to offer the world through writing and inspire people to the nth degree, I will continue writing books about topics relevant to modern life, and personal interests of mine that others may share deeply. The positive feedback that readers have provided for my work and writing skills also gives me a feeling of uplift and fuels my desire to further my writing career.

Are you friends with other writers?

Yes. The same goes for family members.

Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?

I have considered writing a childhood autobiography before. I will have to wait until I grow old to write a more detailed account of my life, however.

Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind sometime earlier?

Sometimes. Often times I get an idea in the most inconvenient circumstances—when lying in bed on a work night, taking a shower, or on the job. If I do not have immediate access to writing facilities, I plant the idea in the back of my mind in hopes that it can remain there until I am able to access my writing tools.

Do you pen down ideas and revelations as you get them, right then and there?

Yes. Thanks to modern technology, I often text my ideas to myself—usually in complete sentences, and then transcribe them onto my computer when the time arrives.

Fiction or non-fiction? Which is easier?

For me, non-fiction is easier to write. The fact that it is informative implies that the content is factual and correct, with a true story behind its development that can be reiterated according to one’s own perspective. Personally, I find non-fiction more interesting than fiction, period.

Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?

All the time! Whether or not my sentences have rhythm and rhyme, I often find myself reading the sentence(s) I just wrote to make sure they look and sound grammatically correct, connect with the written content at large, and seem comprehensible for my readers.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

I wholeheartedly agree with that concept. If you have a lack of knowledge in or compassion towards what you are writing, the writing feels forced and more business-like than pleasurable, which in turn tarnishes the experience for you the author, and your readers to follow.

How big of a part does music play in creating your “zone”?

Music is pretty much the key factor in helping me conjure up ideas for writing. I usually listen to music as I write to help create positive surroundings for bringing forth my visions, which helps tremendously.

Had any of your literary teachers ever told you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day?

Not particularly. But different teachers of mine did compliment me on my writing and class participation, which helped give me confidence in pursuing writing down the line.

How many children do you have? Do you see any young writers in any of them?

If you count the number of children I teach on a daily basis, I have several hundred! I do see prospective writers in some of them, and always make it a point to identify notable, creative elements of their written work when they present it to me.

Is today’s generation more aware of the literary art, or less?

I would say that writing has taken a different approach for members of today’s generation with the advent of technology as the main source of communication. Since schools are emphasizing Science, Technology Math & Engineering (STEM) more than reading and writing (the latter skills of which, ironically, serve as the foundation of education) nowadays, the written word has become scarce in everyday learning and instruction. Plus, AutoCorrect has consumed the minds of many young scholars to the point where they let their computers do their writing for them, significantly reducing their strengths in spelling and grammar, thereby affecting their written output for the worse.

What are your thoughts about elaborate synopses of books on the back of the cover? Do you think they reveal too much?

It depends on the author and book itself. As long as the summary covers the notable details of the content while providing adequate glimpses into the reading ahead, descriptive length and subsequent literary revelations are not an issue.

Being an author, how susceptible are you to getting recognized on the street?

I have yet to get recognized on the street as an author. But, I get recognized by my students all the time, everywhere, for being a teacher!

How do you think concepts, such as Kindle and e-books, have changed the present or future of reading?

The main way in which Kindle and e-books have altered the reading realm involves books being accessibly compacted into one reading device rather than standing as their own entities on a bookshelf of extraordinary collections by distinct authors. Through such electronic devices, books and authors are treated more like numbers rather than people, so to speak.

Do you encourage your children to read?

Of course! I encourage my children/pupils to read all the time, which they follow through with accordingly.

Do you think the charm of public libraries has toned down much in the last decade?

Libraries have taken on a different feel in the last decade due to people using them more for technological purposes rather than book-reading pleasures. Also, the noise level in public libraries has certainly NOT toned down in the slightest!

Do you often meet with younger writers and discuss their ideas to help polish them?

I tutor many students in writing—typically with essays. Regardless of the student’s age or writing topic, the process remains consistent for all: think of an idea, discuss it with a peer, create an outline if desired (or required in some cases), begin writing what comes to mind, take a break when the time feels right and look over what you have written thus far, edit, and finalize your work so that it becomes whole. As an author and educator, I always encourage my students to give their work a second look themselves and see how it might look in the eyes of the readers, contextually speaking. I provide helpful feedback, emphasizing the positive in the process, and constantly help them proofread their writing so that it tightens up and becomes more organized.

If you were given a teaching opportunity, would you accept it?

I most likely would. After all, it is my main profession!

Which literary character do you most resonate with on a personal level?

I can definitely relate to Silas Marner—the main character in George Eliot’s (real name: Mary Ann Evans) third novel, Silas Marner (1861). Like Silas, I live a solitary life, work hard to make a living and earn my keep, and am proud of all that I achieve regularly.

Were you a troublemaker as a child?

I had a rebellious nature in my preteens (still do as an adult), but was not a troublemaker.

Do you think translating books into languages other than their origin forces the intended essence away?

Not necessarily. Even if the author and/or readers do not speak languages other than their native tongues, the depth and meaning of a writer’s work can still leave powerful impressions on those who take the time to indulge in its wonder, regardless of the dialect in which it appears.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

I am fairly active on social media. Besides reconnecting with old friends (and making new ones), what I like about interacting on social media is that every means of communication is written. Even if people have not met you face-to-face, they can get a sense of who you are through your writing online. I believe that social media, texting, emailing, and online reviews all serve as excellent practice for writing. Hopefully, the more writing people do online, the more their skills will grow in that area! Just make sure you read what you have written before you submit it publicly!

Do you believe you have done enough to leave a legacy behind?

Ultimately, that lies in the hands of my audience. I know that I have worked very hard for everything I have achieved in my life thus far, and stand up for what I believe in at all times without hesitation or apology—in turn aiming to instill a sense of innovation and confidence within those who surround and look up to me.

Are you satisfied with your success?

I am very satisfied with my success, for all of the reasons outlined above.

Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Go after your dreams! If you know that you have something valuable to give to the world and want to make your voice heard, start thinking of ways to do it on paper. You can say what you want to say, how you want to say it, to anybody you wish to address for any reason. If you feel that speaking verbally is not your strength, perhaps conveying your thoughts and ideas through writing is! You may find yourself letting go and expressing your sentiments and beliefs to the fullest like never before. Best of all, nobody can stand in the way of your written work getting published! The world is yours to own, so get “write” on it today!!!!! Have a good time!!!!