AUTHOR INTERVIEW: 'Summer on Earth' by Peter Thompson @pthompsonbooks #middlegrade #fantasy

Peter Thompson grew up in Illinois, and lives near Chicago. He remembers how excited he was when the first astronaut stepped on to the moon. He has had an appreciation of space, and all its possibilities ever since. His love of children’s books developed while reading to his three sons. His first novel, Living Proof, was a thriller published by Berkeley Books. Summer on Earth is his first book for younger readers. It will be released in August of this year.



Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I’m not sure what led to the initial idea, but I keep a notebook where I journal and write any ideas that come to me. I wrote this down a long time ago as a story idea. I had the whole concept at once - An alien from outer space crash lands on Earth, and meets a farm family, and tries to help them with their financial problems by creating a money tree. I wrote this down and promptly forgot about it. This idea sat there for a several years before I came back to it, and when I saw it again, it clicked. I knew the characters, and I stared writing.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

The story itself came together quickly. Once I started writing, I wrote most of the book in about nine months. I got stuck on the ending, but after putting it away for a while, it nearly wrote itself. I rewrote the story extensively later, but the core stayed the same.

I didn’t know what to do with the book when I thought it was done. My hero is an eleven-year-old boy. I wrote the story because it was compelling and it got me excited. Once I wrote it, I found that if you have a young character, then the primary audience is younger readers. I had written a middle school novel. At the time I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Later, I found out some of my favorite books were middle grade – Holes by Louis Sachar, The Giver, anything by Roald Dahl, and of course Harry Potter are all middle grade.

My advice to other writers is to not get discouraged. If you believe in what you have written, keep on going. Be willing to listen to criticism, and make changes if they make sense. Be persistent. It pays in the long run.

 Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

My Publisher is Persnickety Press. My agent, Anna Olswanger, found them and made the contact. They are a small and growing publisher and they have been a joy to work with.  

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

It has all been an adventure, and there have been a lot of twists and turns along the way. When we were submitting the book, each editor was looking for something different. Several editors liked the story but were only looking for series books. Others liked parts of the book, but wanted major changes. The whole process is very subjective. Things one editor loved, others said had to be changed, and visa versa.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?
I have quite a few books that are partially finished, but I am almost finished with a book that is a sideways take on an old fairy tale. It’s fun taking a story that people think they know, and making it into something entirely different. Once I’m done I will still need to do some rewriting before I show it to anyone, but I like this a lot and I feel good about the possibilities.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?
I first got the idea for Summer on Earth over 15 years ago, wrote it down in a notebook, and promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until years later that I was looking through the notebook for something else, that I saw what I had written, and all of a sudden everything clicked, and I knew where I wanted to go with the story.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?
One of the themes of the story is of acceptance, and that you can’t judge someone by their appearance. The alien in the story, Ralwil, or Will, takes on human form based on an image he saw on a TV set. He thinks he fits in because he looks like a human, but he is very noticeably different from everyone else in the small farm town. People look at him strangely and he stands out. But Grady, the 11-year-old boy he comes to know, and his family give him nothing but love and acceptance.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Writing this story has been a labor of love. I hope people can feel this when they read it.
About the Book:

Author: Peter Thompson
Publisher: Persnickety Press
Pages: 293
Genre: Sci-fi / Middle Grade

The night that eleven-year-old Grady Johnson looked out his window and wished upon a shooting star, his life changed forever.

Grady, his Ma, and younger sister Luanne are having a hard summer. Dad has died and the family isn’t the same. Though Ma is trying her best, Grady knows they don’t have enough money to get by.

The shooting star he saw was a space craft plunging to Earth, and landing at the back of their farm. Extraterrestrial engineer Ralwil Turth has one goal, to fix his power drive and go back home. But things don’t go as planned. Stuck in human form, he gets to know Grady and his family as he works on their farm. He starts to learn about what it means to be human, and the exotic charms of this planet like the taste of potatoes, and how amazing bugs are.

Ralwil grows to care for Grady and his family. On a trip to town, he realizes that money is what matters to humans, and is the cause of the family’s trouble. That night, he uses his technology to combine a twenty-dollar bill with an oak twig. Over the next week this grows to a towering tree, every leaf a twenty-dollar bill. This, Ralwil is sure, will solve all the family’s problems.

But the family’s wealth raises suspicion in this small town, and this soon leads to more trouble. With the family’s fate, and Ralwil’s life, on the line, Grady has to find the courage to help his family and save his friend.

Summer on Earth blends humor, adventure and poignancy to create an unforgettable story about finding home. 


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