Interview with Peter Felton, author of Schools of Thought: Well-rounded Education In The Lands of Opportunities

  • Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?


Yes.  Nobody is perfect.  But, when you are an author, you are held accountable to a much higher, near-perfect standard of polished writing mechanics than other people are since you and your writing prowess are in the public eye at all times and you are evaluated heavily by your readers for your literary skills showcased on paper.  I know that as a teacher, I definitely perform the role of grammar Nazi when editing my students’ writing at all times!


  • What makes this particular genre you are involved

in so special?


Nonfiction is the most in-depth genre out there.  Authors of nonfiction clearly know and show their craft of intellectual expertise on the informative-factual front.  Personally, I love taking on the role of narrator in my writing, and nonfiction allows that aura to come into play most eloquently.


  • What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?


Computer works best for me.  I have used typewriters and written plenty in longhand, but nothing beats the speed and smoothness of the computer keyboard.  Fun fact: I am a self-taught touch-typist.


  • When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?


Although I first got the hang of writing at the age of seven in 2nd Grade, it was not until my Freshman Year of college when my writing skills truly blossomed and I began taking interest in the literary craft going forward.  This culminated in the publications of my three books in 2012, 2015, and 2018, along with handfuls of written articles of mine revolving around key elements of writing being published on numerous online networks in the interim.  Music, film narration, and interviews watched on television and listened to on the radio remain the main inspirations for my writing style to this day.


  • Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?


Since I have a very busy work life as a teacher, I write when time and energy allow.  But, my inspiration for writing remains everpresent, and I keep any and all ideas envisioned in the back of my head for near-future issuance on paper.


  • How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?


Over the years, I have become very literarily adept, which has allowed me the innate ability to put thoughts down on paper rather rapidly, with editing to follow.


  • Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?


If all runs well, I aim to complete at least one full page of writing each day.  I often time myself to see how long it takes me to write the given page(s) of material, in an effort to improve my mental stamina with each new chapter created.


  • Do you think writers have a normal life like others?


Sure.  Writers are spouses, parents, working professionals, and…people!  Unless you and your writing become bestsellers, you definitely have to have a “regular job” to not only make ends meet, but to also exercise your additional talents extending beyond the literary realm, in your time away from writing activities.


  • Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?


I typically set a plot—taking the form of determining what I want to cover in my writing contextually from a nonfictional standpoint.  Then I write the chapters as they appear in my mind (sometimes in full, sometimes in part—based on the ideas that evolve mentally, returning to them later on after work is done on other parts of my evolving book at the time), and order them accordingly when (if not before) the editing phase of my writing arrives.


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


I would say reviewing your work during the editing and publishing phases is the trickiest.  It requires super careful examination on the part of the author from combined literarily mechanical and contextual angles to make your writing appear 100% intact visually, grammatically, and contextually as a whole.  You also have to look at your writing through the eyes of your readers during (preferably before) that phase so that you will get a better sense of how they (may) perceive your language and ideas when presented before them.


  • What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?


I would say coming up with ideas for writing is the easiest aspect of all (when and before the writing process itself begins)!  Once your mind gets going, there is no telling where it will take you on the literary front!


  • Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?


I do experience the occasional writer’s block, but it does not last terribly long.  Typically, it is at that time when my mind is in the process of formulating a bunch of ideas at one time, and it cannot decide which one will present itself to me first!


  • Any tips you would like to share to overcome it?


When experiencing writer’s block: find a source of inspiration that continues to spark your writing ability no matter what the circumstance.  Once you engage with that resource (music, reading, watching television, taking a walk, going for a long drive, fulfilling household chores, even taking a nap or cooking up some of your favorite food) for a given period of time, your mind will refresh itself and the ideas for writing will flow like the waves in the ocean!


  • Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?


I would say that my ability to convey my thoughts in a less dense, more comprehensible manner through my writing has improved significantly.  But it took practice—thanks in large part to my regularly creating my own assignment rubrics for my students to carry out, as part of my teaching!


  • Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?


I proofread and edit my own work, while relying on the helpful hands of fellow author friends and relatives of mine in that regard.


  • Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?


My second book, Tommy Wrought: A Musical Reflection Of Children With Special Needs was written in two separate phases—from January-June 2014, and then August-December 2015.  The time in between featured several then-new life developments that drew my rapt attention towards them.


  • What is the most important thing about a book in your opinion?


A book serves as a two-way street of imagination—first on the part of the author, and then on the parts of the readers.  The two parties mirror one another quite symbolically thanks to the literary content shared between them in the process.


  • If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?


Although I do not plan on rewriting any of my books now or in the future, several readers have suggested the possibility of me creating a second, updated edition of my first book, Daily Public Transit Ridership: The Inside Scoop, to account for the passage of time and noteworthy events occurring on the transit timeline between now and when it was published in 2012.  We will see!


  • Have you ever designed your own book cover?


Yes!  I designed the front and back covers for Tommy Wrought: A Musical Reflection Of Children With Special Needs and Schools of Thought: Well-rounded Education In The Lands of Opportunities at the times of their respective self-publications.


  • Do you attend literary lunches or events?


I do attend (and have hosted) the occasional book signing or author appreciation event at bookstores and other educational venues.  It is quite enjoyable to be in the presence of so many enlightened individuals who truly enjoy the beauty of the written word!


  • How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?


I would definitely feel disheartened.  Hopefully this outcome was not a sign of bad publicity, or signifying that people were not interested in my literary offerings!  But I am used to people standing me up or showing up very late to different social situations, so I would simply move on and try another alternative means of public outreach.  I am very self-confident, resourceful, and good with communication.


  • Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?


I definitely read the reviews and comments of my readers.  But I only respond to them if they were sent to me directly by friends of mine on social media, or through private emails and texts from family members and friends of mine in the flesh.  I do not respond to starred reviews of my books made by the public; they are what they are (which have been mostly good so far!).


  • Does a bad review affect your writing?


No.  A bad review helps me improve my writing in the near future because such a negative response thereto either meant that the reader did not understand what I was writing about, or perhaps I overlooked something in my writing mechanics that made my writing appear less intact than I thought.


  • What did you want to become when you were a kid?


I originally wanted to be a bus driver, given my lifelong love of public transportation.  But when an actual bus driver proved very convincing in his polite but brutal discouragement of me pursuing such a career, I scrapped the idea.  No hard feelings; I still respect the profession immensely, and make my voice heard in that light as well!


  • Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

That would be Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss—read in full in 1st Grade at the age of seven!  Since then, I became hooked on the stylings of the one and only Theodor Seuss Geisel (may he Rest In Peace).


  • Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?


No.  But I definitely utilized the wisdom of one veteran family author to help me through the traditional publication process!


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


I base my writing style as if I were a narrator or interviewee articulating his thoroughly in-depth knowledge on a given topic of interest, to my readers of (presumably) equal enthusiasm on the given subject matter.  I also extensively exhibit rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration in my writing, which stem from my eternal musical inclinations.


  • Do your novels carry a message?


They do.  The messages are conveyed through the information provided in my works of nonfiction—reflecting different elements of humanity come into play symbolically and thematically.


  • Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?


Certainly.  The content within the opening chapter of my first book (Daily Public Transit Ridership: The Inside Scoop) and the closing chapter of my second book (Tommy Wrought: A Musical Reflection Of Children With Special Needs) are acutely autobiographical, while my third and newest book (Schools of Thought: Well-rounded Education In The Lands of Opportunities) is entirely autobiographical from beginning to end!


  • How realistic are your books?


Very realistic.  Since all of my books fall under the genres of nonfiction and autobiography, their underlying content remains 100% realistic and relevant in their outlooks!


  • It is often believed that almost all writers have had their hearts broken at some point in time, does that remain true for you as well?


Absolutely.  I have had my heart broken in the departments of love and friendship betrayal many times throughout my lifetime.  The same can be said for a few occasions in my life as a student and working professional.


  • Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?


That would be my highly literate-and-published author several times over father, Keith Spencer Felton!


  • When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?


Not per se.  But I have always loved language, so that has never been lost on me.

  • Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?


Sometimes knowing who, when, where, and how to promote my books can be a challenge.  Editing and writing can be mentally exhausting at times, but fun all the while!


  • Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?


Unless your books become bestsellers, and/or you are retired with piles of money sitting at your feet, you cannot expect to get rich off of royalties as an author.  You must have a “normal job” on the side, if not at the forefront.


  • Do you have a daily habit of writing?


I do.  Typically, I am writing: a thought-provoking social media post, detailed YouTube commentary or playlist description, in-depth assignment rubric for my students as part of my teaching, or a chapter for a prospective book of mine!


  • How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?


Both.  I think the two go hand in hand quite well.


  • Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?


Oh no, there is always editing to be done!  That way, you can truly (and necessarily) fine tune your writing!


  • Do you enjoy book signings?


I do, very much.  I have hosted three (all for my first book, in 2012-2013) and taken part as a representative author for my former publisher at the Los Angeles Times Festival Books (in April 2013).  It feels great to showcase my work and meet interested readers and authors from all walks of my life.


  • Have you ever taken any help from other writers?


I have—from my father.  Since much of my writing (style) is inspired by songwriters and scriptwriters, I tend to turn to them and their cinematic output for hidden advice.


  • What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?


I have never co-authored any books.  I believe that as long as both authors’ hearts are into writing their shared book, with each author generating 50% of the ideas and wording, then a true team effort evolves and a genuine literary creation comes to fruition.


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


I often coin new terms by putting them in quotes in my writing.  I love making puns, so they often take the form of newly-designed vocabulary words in my writing.


  • What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about your specific genre?


With the internet consuming the world of learning via generating and accruing fast facts, many people in general do not understand the true beauty and accuracy of information presented in (my specific genre of) nonfiction.  But, as is indicated on websites like Wikipedia, every internet resource always cites a primary literary resource as the ultimate source of information provided thereon.


  • What do you do in your free time?


I love photography, going on walks, visiting my local public library, riding public transportation, surfing the web, and spending quality time with friends and family.


  • Given the chance to live your life again, what would you change about yourself?


Without a doubt, I would change my inability to develop and maintain friendships.  Although my social skills have improved over the years, my friendship count remains miniscule and I do not get out that much (with other people) as a result.


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


Music is my fuel for some of my best writing!  When writing, I often listen to music of various genres depending on my mood—with headphones, to help prevent any extraneous sounds from interfering with my writing process and corresponding zone of thought.


  • Do you need to be in a specific place or room to write, or you can just sit in the middle of a café full of people and write?


I can write almost anywhere that I deem suitable for my train of thought to start rolling.  As long as the environment is not too loud and distracting, I am good to go!


  • Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they’re finished with their project – how true is that in your case?


Given my work life and subsequent business obligations, in addition to my desire to take advantage of any social opportunities that may come along, I tend to go back and forth between fulfilling obligations in different parts of my everyday life and my latest writing venture.


  • In case one or any of your books honor the big screen, which book would you like it to be?


I would love for my third book, Schools of Thought: Well-rounded Education In The Lands of Opportunities to one day become a movie.  Since this book is essentially an autobiography with twists and turns, I think it would make a fine feature film!


  • Which genre of book do you think should be most adopted for kids in school?


I would say that nonfiction, biography, and self-help should be most adopted for kids in school.  As a teacher, I believe that children need to learn about things and people through an entirely realistic lens so that they can find authentic meaning in its and their overlapping outlooks.

  • How do you think your writing style has changed over the years?


My writing has become more free-flowing over the years.  I am now able to concoct sentences and whole paragraphs effervescently.  But my trademark elaborate explanations and analyses, big vocabulary words, and enthusiastic spirit remain in my wording!


  • Do you enjoy the attention fans shower you with, or would you rather keep it online?


I love both means of literary affection when-, how-, and from whomever they appear before me!


  • What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?


Mrs. Doubtfire (starring Robin Williams and Sally Field), based on the book Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine (1987), is, hands down, my favorite movie that was based on a book.


  • What are the non-fiction genres you enjoy reading?


The genres of nonfiction that I enjoy reading include: Biography, Commentary, Critique, Creative Nonfiction, and History.


  • How liberal are you in term of expressing ideas in your books?


I am very liberal in terms of expressing ideas in my books.  I do not hold back!  I am proud of who I am and how I think.  That said, I remain very levelheaded in my writing so as to approach topics of interest from many different wavelengths of thought and appeal to a greater number of readers.


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


Essentially, I meet with younger writers in the form of my students on a daily basis to discuss and help polish their ideas.  I have also helped new, older writers write and publish their first books.  Both recurrences feel very gratifying as an author myself.


  • How long do you take to write a book?


I typically take less than one year (anywhere from 3-10 months) to write a book.  I like to remain consistent in my literary timing.


  • Do you prefer being intoxicated to write? Or would you rather write sober?


I do not do drugs of any kind.  As any druggie will tell you: drugs destroy the mind and body—both (especially the former) of which you need in order to create sound, crisp writing at all times.  The healthier the mind (and body), the stronger your writing!  Period.

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