Science fiction novelist Tony Peak is the author of such books as SIGNAL, Inherit the Stars, and Beethoven’s Tenth. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter! I’m glad he could spare the time to answer these questions about the life of a writer!
How long have you been a writer?
Tony Peak: I started writing seriously in 2008. I made myself write at least one short story per week, just to see if I could do it. I stuck with it, and here we are.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Tony Peak: I’d wanted to be a writer for years, probably since I was in my early 20s (I’m 42 now). But I always put it on the back burner or wondered if I even had a shot at it. Even though I’m a lifelong reader, my first instincts weren’t geared toward the craft. At least not consciously. I tried writing my own tabletop RPG, then I wrote some fantasy novellas in college. A friend told me “that’s what you should be doing”, and that has been in my mind ever since.
Are you a full-time writer? If not, what’s your day job that helps pay the bills? If yes, how do you keep the process fun instead of feeling like it’s…ugh…work?
Tony Peak: No, I’m not a full time writer. If only. Right now I work part-time at a rehab center.
Do you have a family? How do you balance quality time with them and with your creative process?
Tony Peak: I’m married with a 9-year-old son. I focus on writing in the mornings while my wife is at work and my son is in school. We have the evenings and weekends together. Although, since I’m an early riser, I have the weekend mornings to write, too.
What’s your favorite genre to read – and why?
Tony Peak: Science Fiction. It has the best ideas. No other genre stimulates my mind like it does. I like the epic scope of other planets and parallel universes to the smaller yet personal questions of what makes us human and how we deal with change, whether it’s technological or internal.
Share some works that were influential for you – and why?
Tony Peak: Frank Herbert’s Dune for its scope. When I read about people that had lived for thousands of years, or were reborn dozens of times, it opened up possibilities in my imagination. Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey because it can be interpreted in so many ways. It’s like a mirror; what you get from the story is a reflection of what you’re seeking. Philip K. Dick’s Ubik for its mind-bending, surreal narrative. What’s real and what isn’t? Like all of PKD’s work, it’s about perception.
What drives you to write? What do you get out of it?
Tony Peak: I love creating stories. That’s it. They fill my head, I daydream all the time, I’m always coming up with ideas that I can’t wait to develop. I have to get them out.
Are you powered more by character inspirations or plot ideas? Why is that?
Tony Peak: Hard to answer. I might imagine a different world and its rules, but then I think of people inhabiting those worlds. What do they do, what are they like, what’s their ambitions, who do they love? Here lately I guess the answer would be character inspirations. Coming up with a story is like having snippets of a film stuck in your head, bits of scenes and impressions that need, that demand, to be tied together in a greater narrative.
What do you do for fun? Interesting hobbies?
Tony Peak: I like video games such as Elder Scrolls Online, Conan Exiles, and Destiny. I play tabletop games like Elder Sign and Dungeons & Dragons. I enjoy lectures from The Teaching Company (especially science). I love good TV shows like Westworld, The Expanse, Star Trek: Discovery, Fleabag, and The Witcher. I read a variety of comics—Saga, Wicked + Divine, East of West, and Black Science are my current favorites. And, of course, I read. Fiction, non-fiction, National Geographic, Astronomy Magazine, others. I used to hike local trails and I plan on getting back to that. I love being alone in a forest where all you hear is the wind stirring the leaves. I try to star gaze whenever I get the chance, and the sky is clear.
What advice do you have for would-be writers?
Tony Peak: Write like hell and read even more. Stick with it, no matter what anyone says. Listen to constructive criticism but ignore the haters and trolls. If you get rejected, send it back out and write another story. To quote Gene Wolfe: “Think about what you write”. Do it because you love it, not because you think to make a quick buck or become famous or any of that Hollywood bullshit.