Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Peter Aronson, who has written MANDALAY HAWK’S DILEMMA, THE UNITED STATES OF ANTHROPOCENE, a novel for middle-grade readers.
First, let me thank you for joining me. I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.
To purchase Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma: Buy Mandalay Hawk's Dilemma
That is great. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?
Actually, I have been writing for almost 40 years. Hate to date myself, but it’s true. After graduating from law school, I attended and graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, then embarked on a 20-plus year career as a newspaper reporter and editor, with time also spent as a TV reporter and producer. I mostly covered legal affairs stories because of my background as a lawyer.
That's great. One of my mentors in writing had a career in journalism.
However, I didn’t start writing outside of the journalism world in earnest until about 2015. My creative juices took over and I began writing short stories and then started the Mandalay Hawk novel, a full six years ago. I wanted to write a novel for middle-grade readers that covered an essential topic in today’s world. My daughters, 10 and 12 at the time, were mostly reading Dystopian-themed books. I wanted to write a more serious piece of fiction. Thus, I began researching and writing a book about young teens fighting global warming, which I came to realize was the most important story of our time.
Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?
I have a strong background in news, having worked, as I said above, as a journalist for more than 20 years. Thus, current events often grab me and motivate me. I had been reading about the devastating impact of global warming for years before I decided to write a children’s book about the subject.
What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?
Interesting question about hobbies. I have always been very athletic - having played basketball in high school and then taking up running in my 20s. I have run in a lot of races and three marathons and I think the motivation I have had as an athlete, to compete and to succeed, carries over to my writing, to push myself, to always succeed at a higher level. I am an extremely self-motivated person, and I think it is somehow tied to my love of sports, my love of sweating and pushing myself, and my love of watching great athletes perform at the highest level - ie, Steph Curry! As a writer, I am always competing with myself, to somehow take my research, my thought process, my thinking, to a higher level than it was before. I am 65 and I have warned my wife, Emily, that I am really just getting started … that thinking and writing, and writing and thinking, are my new-found passions in life and pushing me forward to do more and better work. And of course, reading is a major hobby of mine. Because without reading, there can really not be any writing. Because you learn when you read and you write what you learn. Right?
What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?
Writers need to follow their passion. Write about what your most passionate about. If you love to knit and find yourself doing that most of your free time, than write about knitting. If you love watching football game after football game on a Sunday afternoon, then write about that, write about why you love to watch all those games. If you love watching your five-year-old son eat a hamburger and get ketchup all over his face, then write about that. I truly believe that every person in the world has interesting stories to tell. Notice I wrote stories, as in plural. Write about what interests you. Write about what moves you. But you gotta write, gotta sit down and write. In your own words.
What is the best advice you have ever been given as a writer?
A writing instructor once said to my class: “You have to love the process to succeed.” By “process” she meant the writing, the re-writing …. and, then, more re-writing. I wrote more than 20 drafts of my Mandalay Hawk book, revising ad nauseam - shortening, condensing, deleting, exchanging one scene for another. I am not sure that I “loved” every second of this “process,” but I certainly enjoyed major parts of it and loved the creative stimulation I felt as I improved the manuscript.
Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?
I write full-time now. In 2015 and for the following three years after that, I continued to practice law in New York City as I wrote my Mandalay Hawk book and also wrote a few short stories. I got up every morning at 5 am and wrote for a few hours before going to work. I closed my law practice at the end of 2018 and have been writing full-time since then. I have written six books during the past six years, Mandalay Hawk being the third one to get published. A trilogy of middle-grade soccer novels, written with soccer legend Shep Messing, will be published in 2022.
How many hours a day do you write?
Six, ten … sometimes more. It just depends. I also have to mix in research (reading) and marketing for the various projects I am working on. I usually work parts of seven days a week, because I love what I am doing.
What is your favorite part about writing?
I love creating a story - characters, dialogue, scenes, ideas, events. When something I have written clicks, when I think it is a novel thought that’s worth telling, and I think people will enjoy reading it - I feel on top of the world. That’s one of the reasons I love writing short stories. You can really let your mind wander and go from start to finish in a reasonable period of time - days, weeks, or a month or two, as opposed to years. There are few if any things in life where you can do whatever you darn well please. Writing fiction is one of them. You can let your mind wander, like a balloon drifting through the air, going where the wind, or in a writer’s case, where your imagination, takes it.
If you want to write, write. There is no in between.
What does literary success look like to you?
I want to write a book or stories that reach a wide audience. I am not satisfied with where I am right now.
That's a great goal to get your works in more hands. In that spirit, please tell us about your current release.
Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma is a middle-grade novel for our troubled and overheated times. Mandalay is a juvenile delinquent who knows all about the devastating impact of global warming, but she has to stay out of trouble. Because if she doesn’t, a judge will rip her from her father and send her to juvie jail for a good long time.
So what’s a 13-year-old to do when the Big Heat comes, it’s 2030, and this new, more intense global warming is suffocating and swamping earth, causing death, destruction and mayhem like never before.
Mandalay’s only choice is KRAAP - KIDS REVOLT AGAINST ADULT POWER. Adults screwed up, so Mandalay and her pals have to fix the problem.
There’s a march on Washington unlike any other. There’s cat and mouse with hundreds of armed soldiers. And then there’s rapping in the Oval Office to a captive president. With five billion people watching, these kids aren’t leaving until they get what they want. It’s a middle-grade novel for our difficult times, for kids who care about the future.
I am proud to say that Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review and called the book “A scathing work and an essential blueprint for youth battling climate change.”
Can you read / provide us with a small exert?
Late in the book, Mandalay and her friends, finally, make it to the White House, where they get to lecture a captured president. The lecture includes Mandalay standing on the president’s famous desk and rapping to him, as billions watch via live stream:
“Yo, yo, yo Mr. President, William “Bucky” Billingham, be a man with a plan ...
Our Democracy made you electable, the people made you selectable.
Don’t let us become perishable, avoid being the Prez who’s a Fool,
Make sure we’re sustainable, so you’re remembered as the Prez who’s cool.
Sustainable, sustainable, what a beautiful thought, make sure Mr. President,
you can’t be bought.
Global warming, the scourge of our earth, renewable energy, the gem of our
Swimming in the Hudson in winter, what a freaking blast, but the reality, this
great warming stunner, is really a big fat bummer.
99 degrees in the shade, we no longer have it made.
Glaciers melt and fall, oceans warm and rise, coastal cities drown and
crumble under, people tumble all asunder.
Insects populate, diseases propagate.
Droughts desecrate, starvation escalates.
The masses migrate, epidemics depopulate.
Civil unrest spreads and so does hate, then civil wars come and devastate.
And forests burn, destroy and kill, those knowledgeable yearn, but hesitate.
Eliminate carbon pollution, renewables are the solution.
Solar, wind and water, if we don't make that call and convert it all, we’ll find that we all fall ... fall ... fall ...
We face the probability, we really do, of having the grand distinction, of
dooming our human race to eventual extinction.
Do you want that Mr. President?
What exciting story are you working on next?
I am now in the final polishing stage of a trilogy of soccer novels written with my co-author Shep Messing, a legend in the soccer world as a former U.S. Olympian and now current broadcaster for the New York Red Bulls. These books will be published in 2022.
Also, I sometimes write non-fiction. My essay on race, called My Reckoning, was recently published by Evening Street Review. The essay can be read by clicking here and going to page 6 or 7:
Who are your favorite authors?
Roberto Bolano opened my eyes to fiction that shows anything goes.
What part of writing and publishing was most difficult for you?
Definitely the self-publishing part is the most difficult. I want to write, not market myself.
I totally understand. I feel the same. Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you want to write, write. There is no in between.
One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?
Amazon: Buy Mandalay Hawk's Dilemma
Or go to IngramSpark.
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