Jerry Peterson, the writer and his books


Who is this fella anyway?

That's a difficult question to answer in 25 words or less, so I'll take more.

I'm a writer . . . of five mystery and crime novels to date plus a mainstream novel, two crime novellas and five collections of short stories.

You may be curious about the photo above. Shortly after Five Star brought out my first James Early Mystery in 2009, Marge and I went on a trip to see family and friends and do a little promoting for Early's Fall. Among our stops, Zanesville, Ohio, where sculptor Alan Cottrill has his studio and gallery. Marge and I found this Cottrill bronze of a horse out front and, I couldn't help it, I had Marge shoot this photo.

Statue: "Is there a horse in your book?"

Me: "Yes, right here, see, on page 176."

Prior to getting a contract and a check for that first book, I was a high school teacher -- English, speech, and theater -- in Wisconsin; a charter pilot; a practitioner of the fine arts of corporate communications and public relations for state Farm Bureaus in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas; an ink-in-the-veins reporter, photographer, and editor for newspapers in Colorado, West Virginia, Virginia, and Tennessee; the world's oldest graduate student at the University of Tennessee; and for a brief time even a farmer, raising hay and pumpkins. We leased out our tobacco acreage. Big acreage, a half an acre.

It was while I was at the University of Tennessee that I had time to write what I wanted to write -- fiction. I studied short story writing under Wilma Dykeman and novel writing under Allan Weir, even took part in workshops taught by Lee Smith and Robert Morgan. Here's how good Morgan is. His 1999 novel, Gap Creek, was an Oprah Book Club selection. Made the book a million-seller.

I set out to write a saga of the mid-South and did so, titled it Wings Over the Mountains. I garnered 124 rejections for that one from agents and editors from coast to coast and New York to Florida. So I set that manuscript aside and wrote eight others . . . that also were rejected.

Then came number 10, Early's Fall. Finally, editors and a publisher agreed that I had mastered both the art of the novel and the craft of writing. Someday, I'll tell you how that manuscript found Five Star.

Know that, after being a gypsy for 30 years, I'm back home in way-south Wisconsin -- the land of great cheese, craft beer, and excellent books -- tapping out new stories and new novels on my keyboard.

Plotting: Some writers do it, some don't

Nelson Algren 1949 novel, The Man with a Golden Arm, received the very first National Book Award.

An interviwer, for a 1955 Paris Review story, asked Algren how much he writes before he begins to rewrite. His answer dealt more with plotting, something he didn’t do in The Man with a Golden Arm.

Said Algren, “I dunno, maybe five pages. I always figured the way I could finish a book and get a plot was to keep making it longer and longer until something happens – you know, until it finds its own plot – because you can’t outline and then fit the thing into it. I suppose it’s a slow way of working.”