#Coming of Age, Action and Adventure, and 1980’s
Linda Interviews Michael Thomas Perone
1. What was your motivation for becoming an author and writer? What did you do before you were a writer?
Not to sound pretentious, but I don’t really believe people suddenly “decide” to be a writer. It’s like being an athlete; you either are or you’re not. Of course you can train and get better over time, but if you don’t have that original, natural talent, you might not get as far as you want. I actually fought against the impulse of considering myself a writer for the longest time, but my Mom reminded me years ago how I would spend a lot of my childhood upstairs in my bedroom writing story after story. As she said, “No one told you to do that, Michael. You just did it on your own.” At the time, I assumed everyone was doing that. I would ask some friends in elementary school what stories they were working on, and they assumed I meant schoolwork (laughs). As for what I did before I became a professional writer, well, I’m still doing it. I’m a senior editor for The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The editing is dry, but it pays the bills. I’m not Stephen King…yet! (laughs)
2. What motivated or inspired you to write?
I was inspired by three major sources when writing this book: the old-school, 8-bit Nintendo game “Excitebike”; the many misadventures I had riding my bike with my friends growing up; and, unfortunately, the death of my brother when I was 8 years old. Danger Peak is based on a short story I wrote over 30 years ago when I was 11. Having written the main beats of the story when I was a child myself helped capture the preadolescent tone of the book, and I believe it will help connect with young readers today, as well as hook nostalgia-minded adults who grew up on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg adventures and are longing for the simpler, “totally awesome” time of the ‘80s when the book is set.
3. How did you go about researching your book?
Well, my book is about growing up in the ‘80s, and I didn’t need any research for that. I lived it! (laughs) Aside from that, I’ve had a few readers tell me I really captured the feel of an ‘80s adventure movie starring kids, and again, that comes from growing up with Spielberg and Lucas as my co-parents (laughs).
4. You say your book is set in the ‘80s. What details did you use to get that across to the reader?
How much time do you have? (laughs) The book is filled with wall-to-wall ‘80s references. Off the top of my head, an incomplete list includes references to Nintendo Power, Martika’s “Toy Soldiers,” “Knight Rider,” “ALF,” Garfield, Genesis/Phil Collins, “Miami Vice,” Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Game Boy, “Ghostbusters” (just the first one), Indiana Jones (again, just the first movie), “Star Wars” (only the original trilogy), He-Man, “Batman” (the 1989 film version and that is all), and the Berlin Wall coming down. Having said, er, listed this, this is not to say that my book is simply a referential nostalgia fest, where I just randomly cite things from the ‘80s for no apparent reason and call it a day; I incorporate the ‘80s references organically in the story—or at least I tried to! (laughs) For example, Robert, the main character, gets the idea to build a super-powered motorbike after seeing Batman’s utility belt in the 1989 film version of “Batman” and realizing he needs “better tools” to defeat Danger Peak. Also, Robert and Danny, his older brother who dies, bond over the “Star Wars” sleepovers they used to have, where Robert played Luke and Danny played Han. This detail is based on my own relationship with my brother.
5. What are your goals for readers to take away after reading?
I hope people come away inspired and feeling like they read a great kid adventure. (Incidentally, “A Kid Adventure” is the subtitle of my book.) It’s kind of a cliché: “Climb every mountain,” but in my book, there’s actually a literal mountain—a magical one, in fact. Everyone has their mountain to climb. In some ways, writing and publishing this book was my mountain, and I’m just grateful to be here answering these questions for you. I feel like I’ve made it to the other side. Other than that, a big part of my book is dealing with and overcoming grief. Everyone has had someone in their life close to them die. For some, it happens sooner than others. For me, it was when I was 8. I feel my book might give people hope that just because that someone you loved is gone doesn’t mean the love you had for that person has to be gone as well.
6. What is a typical day in your life?
I’m a father first, then a husband, then an editor by day, then a writer, in that order. I’m usually scrambling from picking up or dropping my kids off somewhere to taking care of my dog (he’s actually sick right now) to fixing things around the house to promoting my book by blogging to making sure my wife is happy to getting my books edited on deadline. If I had to describe it in a word: juggling.
7. What are your hobbies or things you do in your downtime?
Besides the obvious like writing, I used to play the sax and occasionally sing and rap in a ska/punk band you’ve never heard of called All Out Riot. I play basketball when I visit my parents (they still have my old hoop up) and walk my dog several times a week. I also bike everyday if it’s not raining, and no, it’s a regular bicycle, not a motorbike. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually ridden a motorbike before. Now I’ve outed myself! (laughs)
8. What can you tell us of any new writing projects that you might have?
I have one more good idea for a book, but writing and publishing this one was such a harrowing experience, I’m not sure I want to go through it again! (laughs) Honestly, it depends on how well this book does. Right now, it’s doing fairly well for an independent book—not spectacular, but decent business. It doesn’t help that I haven’t done much promotion, aside from my website: http://www.dangerpeak.com. (Sorry, I had to get a plug in somewhere!) In many ways, I feel like I showed up 2 weeks late for a race. I haven’t even done a trailer for the book yet! That’s in the works, though. I have a few people already asking me when the next one’s coming out, and maybe they don’t understand how much work it was completing the first one. It was years of not only writing but revising and beta-testing and looking for a publisher, etc. Writing and publishing this book was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, after being a father. Right now, I’m so busy with all the things I listed in a previous answer. If nothing else, I may have to wait until retirement to find time to write another book!
9. What are your favorite genres of books that you like to read?
Middle grade and young adult (still), action-adventure, graphic novels, a few classics, and celebrity memoirs (sorry).
10. What advice can you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Just write. You can always edit later.
11. If your book were adapted to the screen, what actors and actresses do you envision for the main characters?
I was going to say the cast from “Stranger Things,” but they’re all in their 20s now (laughs). Honestly, my book stars a bunch of 13-year-olds, and I don’t know any famous 13-year-old actors or 13-year-old actors, period. Perhaps by the time my book is well known enough, there will be a great group of young actors who can fill the roles. So I don’t know about the cast, but of course, my dream director would be Steven Spielberg, since so many of his films obviously inspired my book. (I tell people Danger Peak is “The Goonies” meets “Stand By Me” with a dash of magical realism.) Hey, it could happen! (laughs) The film version of Ernest Cline’s ’80s-centric novel Ready Player One ended up being directed by Spielberg. You never know!
12. How would you like the readers to connect with you?
You can send me a note or a question on my website at http://www.dangerpeak.com/contact. Also, if you enter your email address in the opt-in box at the bottom of the Blog/FREE Book page of my website, I’ll send you a free PDF copy of my book Lists, Life, and Other Unimportant Details, an over 270-paged collection of my best blogs and published articles over the past 25 years. Thanks a lot for taking the time to ask me these great questions. I learned a lot about myself! (laughs)