Today I am talking with Charles Peterson Sheppard, or Pete as he prefers. Like me he has had a long and varied career having been a a news writer, an editor, a scholar, a school teacher, a youth correctional counselor and an adult parole agent, as well as a amateur graphic artist. He also has a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, a Master’s Degree in Education, a unique educational background, and a happy life! He says he is an avid reader, a solid writer, an expert researcher and an intellectual scholar.
Could you tell us about yourself
I am the eleventh of twelve children, raised in a small town in upstate New York (Springwater). I left New York State in 1980, graduated from UCLA in 1986, then worked as a public school teacher in Los Angeles, CA for 8 years. After that I worked as a correctional teacher, a correctional counsellor, and finally as an adult parole agent for California Corrections and Rehabilitation. In 2014 I received a Master’s degree in Education and retired from state service. That’s when I started promoting myself and other authors through graphic arts and social media. I have been doing author, reading and book promoting ever since. It is one of my favorite activities.
Tell us about your novel “A Flint of Dreams”
Flint of Dreams is a ‘Coming of Age Paranormal Thriller,” that centers upon a psychic Iroquois teen (Flint Spencer) discovering his ability to ‘dreamwalk’ and contact the Indian spirit world. His self-discovery coincides with a growing understanding of who he is as a person, and where he fits in with his community, his tribe, and particularly, the Blue Heron Clan. He goes through many changes, as those around him try to help him mature and grow. Ultimately, Flint must hone his skills to battle the evil ‘Esso Breezy,’ a psychic assassin with similar abilities, but who chose a darker, violent path. Their incredible psychic battle mirrors conflict in the greater spirit realm.
When did you first decide to write and what got you started?
I have been writing since middle school. I used to tell stories to my older brothers and sisters, to entertain them and myself. This penchant for writing and story development blossomed in my middle school years through creative writing, and improved in high school and college as I worked on my high school and college newspapers and produced special interest magazines with peers. I also majored in English Literature at UCLA; that helped a lot. Further, my professional career as an adult parole agent sharply affected my writing style and enhanced my descriptive processing skills. The combination of creativity, journalism and behavioral reporting prepared me to write novels in a unique fashion. Writing novels is simply the next step in my evolution.
What is the best part about writing, and the worst?
That’s an easy two-part question to answer! The best part of writing is the wonderful sense of accomplishment you feel when others give positive feedback. The worst part about writing is…getting started. That is the most difficult thing to do… begin.
How has your life experience influenced your writing?
I think my life experience enables me to write about the nuances of love, alienation, betrayal and personal redemption. I am an adult child of alcoholic parents and grandparents, with all the conflict, love, secrecy, hurt and disillusionment inherent in that experience. My mother died in my early teens, and due to life circumstances my father essentially abandoned me, which had a powerful influence on how I process family relationships. As a child, my siblings labeled me “Suckerthumb,” which caused me to retreat into my own sad world to escape the alienation I felt and the low self esteem my insecurities caused me. I have also known betrayal by friends and family. Like most people. These negatives, counterbalanced by the love, support, encouragement and self-affirmation I experienced by several siblings, neighbors, friends, and coworkers have expanded my writing repertoire a great deal. My wife’s love also influences my writing, because I know what comprises romantic, spirtual, sensual and platonic love, through my relationship with her and her family.
What’s your favorite genre and why?
I like science fiction the most, because it includes elements of factual speculation, escapism, and when done well, the psychological elements that most good fiction thrives upon.
Where do your characters come from?
They come from the people I know, or have known in the past.
Who are your favourite authors? How do they inspire you?
My favorite author: Ernest Hemingway. I like his compact, minimalist style. I also like Stephen King’s character development prowess. Both strongly influenced ‘Flint of Dreams’ I also like William Shakespeare’s uncanny wordplay and his perfect use of ‘the fatal flaw’ in his tragedies.
What do you look for in other people’s books?
I like to feel like I am in “good hands,” which means I like compelling prose, a command of the language, cleverness that does not feel contrived, emotion, and a sense of ‘being there.’
What are you currently working on?
I am writing a novel called “The Ant Lords” about tiny aliens who long ago affected our history in ways we least suspect. It is also a coming of age tale involving three teen protagonists.
As a writer what would you like to be known for?
Writing good stuff. What else? But also, I want to be known as a promoter and supporter of others, too! I want to be an author’s author. I think I am well on my way, in that regard.
What advice can you offer new writers?
My motto: “Roadmap, roadmap, roadmap… and side trips.” I just mean that you have to map out where you are going well in advance and stay on course; yet at the same time, don’t be afraid to deviate and let writing take you places you did not plan. Wonderful things can happen on side trips.
You are very active on Twitter and Facebook, how important do you think social media is for an author?
VERY. I think it’s only partly about self-promotion. It is also about networking, offering support and encouragement, and being part of a writing community. I really like promoting others. I like letting people know I appreciate their efforts.
Any fun facts about you that you would like to share?
I like to make “movie Poster” type promos for books. I have done over three hundred for various authors. These authors have become my best supporters on social media!
Thanks Pete, for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with me. Good luck with The Ant Lords.
You can find Flint of Dreams and Pete’s previous novel The Specialist: The Costa Rica Job on Amazon and catch up with Pete on Twitter and Facebook.