Saturday, 8 April 2017
Author Spotlight on Peter H. Green
Today I interviewed PETER H. GREEN, a writer, architect, and city planner with an impressive background.
Peter is a member of the Real Lives Team, a sub-group of Books Go Social.
He told an interesting story about why he became a writer.
PETER H. GREEN, a writer, architect, and city planner, found his father’s 400 World War II letters, his humorous war stories, his mother’s writings and his family’s funny doings too good a tale to keep to himself, so he launched a second career as a writer.
His first book recounted the often hilarious antics and serious achievements of his father's World War II adventure, Dad’s War with the United States Marines, Seaboard Press, 2005.
It was reissued as Ben’s War with the U. S. Marines in 2014 by Greenskills Press.
His first novel, Crimes of Design, a Patrick MacKenna mystery, an intrigue of murder and sabotage set in St. Louis during the highest flood of record, which first appeared in 2012 from L&L Dreamspell, was republished, along with the second in this series, Fatal Designs, by Greenskills Press in Spring, 2014.
He lives in St. Louis with his wife Connie, has two married daughters and three very young grandchildren.
The story of the last pet his family owned, “The Night We Ruined the Dog,” can be found on his website.
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
It started with my parents, a homemaker and an ex-Marine, both writers and publicists, a grandfather who was a construction contractor and me, an architect that has seen plenty, and who just loves to tell stories.
My dad did a lot of writing for his radio and ad agency jobs, and Mom had always wanted to be a writer and never went through with it.
They had always said I had the ability to be a writer, and I’d always wanted to but needed to earn a living.
In a way, I felt I owed it to them and to myself to finish what they started.
And in my profession, my favorite activity was always describing the projects and getting people excited about hiring our team.
I gravitated toward the marketing side of the business, writing proposals, reports, and publicity for my firms.
This resulted in millions of words cascading from my pen and then from my computer screen over the years.
That’s a lot of writing practice when you think about it.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Other than some early expressions as a child, and some early interest but few thoughts of a writing career, it all started with a college class reunion.
The bravest of our classmates tried to answer the provocative question: What are you going to do with the last third of your life?
The prospect of all that time of relative ease stretching ahead of us beckoned like an unexplored continent.
On that reunion trip, my wife and I also visited Mary Oates, one of her college classmates, a writer and editor herself, in Andover, Mass.
I happened to mention that I spent the summer of 1945, when I turned six, just up the coast with my mother, sister, aunt and her family in a rented seaside house at Annisquam, while Dad was off to war.
Two days later she drove us to Gloucester and we found the very seaside cottage where we’d stayed that summer.
That night, over much wine and good seafood, we were reminiscing about wartime problems, like coastal blackouts and rationing, when Mary blurted, “Peter, you’ve got to do it—write your dad’s story!”
I said, “Gosh, I can— I’ve got Dad’s letters!”
In the basement was an old cardboard box my mom had given me with 400 of my father’s World War II letters, which she had saved in their postmarked envelopes.
Adding to these, his humorous war stories, my mother’s writings and my family’s often hilarious doings, I realized I had a story too good to keep to myself.
I decided to launch a second career as a writer.
After years of architectural work, report preparation, promotional copywriting and proposal writing for my design firms, I went back to Washington University to study creative writing with such accomplished authors as Catherine Rankovic, Robert Earleywine and Rick Skwiot, resulting in the release in 2005 of my biographical memoir on the hilarious antics and serious achievements of my father’s World War II adventure, Dad's War with the United States Marines, James A. Rock & Co., Seaboard Press (Florence, SC), reissued in 2014 as Ben’s War with the U. S. Marines.
3. What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
My biography and family memoir, Dad’s War with the United States Marines, was just handed to me, from the letters and other family lore I had at my fingertips.
Why I write mysteries is kind of a mystery to me. But I can tell you this:
Both my parents were avid readers, especially of mysteries, a habit that fueled their interest in writing and life in general.
They loved clever plots, like Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter.”
A good mystery was always passed around the family with Mom’s urging to “read it right away.”
One time she gave me a mystery-thriller called Loophole, about an architect who was so broke he planned a bank robbery—and got away with it. Whenever we were in a hotel room, Dad was fascinated with how a murderer could defeat the locks through the connecting doors to the adjacent room and leave undetected.
When Mom died, she left a bookcase bursting with mysteries—she shamed me.
I guess I felt that I’d been too busy earning a living and was way behind on my reading.
Besides the recent reads on her shelves, she had read every mystery writer out there—including Mary Roberts Rinehart, Raymond Chandler, Ernie Pyle, Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, John S. MacDonald and William Macdonald.
4. Where did the inspiration for your books come from?
My choice of architecture as a career was a matter of interest and aptitude, but it also had something to do with finding a “practical” way to earn a living.
And for a long career, I have designed buildings, planned development sites and promoted my firm.
On that journey through the world of design and construction I’ve met real estate developers, bureaucrats, politicians, office rivals–all human, mind you, many of them honorable and even noble–but with a few bad apples that undo the hard work of all the good folks just trying to make life a little better for the rest of us.
Throughout my career I saw enough close calls, suspicious acts and outright skullduggery to wonder, what if?
In a way, I wished I could have been taller, more handsome, more heroic than I was.
In second-guessing my life, I wondered what would have happened if, instead of becoming the cautious, conservative person that life teaches most of us to be, I wondered, what if I had taken more risks, been braver, more outspoken and more confrontational than I was?
So I created someone who was all of these things, even though he is a perfectionist, far from perfect—with a weakness for beautiful women—architect Patrick MacKenna.
Before the first chapter of the book is over, he’s in all kinds of trouble.
I wanted to see what would happen if my main character was larger than life, the kind of person who, when challenged to the breaking point, did what had to be done.
. How long did it take you to put your first book, the World War II biography story together?
Ben’s War with the U. S. Marines was a five-year effort, requiring historical research to set my father’s story in context, going through eighteen drafts. Although I’d been pondering a second volume for a decade, Radio: One Woman’s Family in War and Pieces, came together in less than three years.
. Can you share a little about your latest biography with us?
Radio: One Woman’s Family in War and Pieces, by Alice H. Green and Peter H. Green
This eyewitness account of World War II social history weaves women's progress since the Great Depression, the Golden Years of Radio, women’s heroic role in the war and the postwar housing shortage into one woman's humorous and poignant autobiography of her family struggles and her attempts to fulfill her creative dreams., richly illustrated with 50 historical photographs and sketches.
This was the book my mother always wanted to write.
She started it several times. but somehow life always got in the way.
What has surprised you the most about the whole process of getting your book on the market?
I’m constantly amazed by how long it takes to write, revise and perfect a book and how large a team of beta readers, fellow authors, publishers and news media I’ve had to enlist to help me with this project.
While writing’s creative cycle begins as a solitary pursuit, it’s not complete until it has been launched by a big group of players and shared by a large audience.
It seems it takes a village to raise a novel.
Now that your book has hit the stores, describe how you feel in one sentence?
I’m thrilled that our story is being well-received by those who have read it, but I’m anxious about how well I’ll be able to communicate my enthusiasm for this story to the wider world of readers.
Would you like to share what the reviewers are saying about your book?
Here’s my favourite so far:
Rating 4.5 for humor and a true story that needs to be told.
“He loved me, he treasured me, and he pampered me—and then he left me for the Marines.”… “He finally had to admit….that I was his equal.” —Alice Green
This is a wonderful gift book. Alice Green’s writing is fresh and at times laugh-aloud funny, parts of it reminiscent of Cheaper by the Dozen. Thorton Wilder instructed Alice in creative writing.
I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy a good laugh.
The section “We Bought a Crooked House” was hilarious.
Co-written by Alice and her son Peter, I enjoyed snippets about the history of radio, radio advertising, and the home front before, during, and after WW II.
Throughout the book, Alice endured her share of problems.
She was born at a time when women totally acquiesced to their spouse’s wishes, a time when women did not have the vote.
During WW II, Alice raised two youngsters while dealing with rationing and a reduced income.
Her ordeal can be compared to being hand-fed through the wringer of her new electric washing machine. She emerged changed and stronger.
This book will appeal to readers who love the true story of a woman of Irish Catholic heritage, a product of Chicago, as she was strengthened by trial and tribulation.
Alice progressed from a shy wallflower to a woman who supervised countless volunteers for the American Red Cross.
I intend to buy a copy of this book for a dear aunt.—Paula B., Amazon reviewer
How many books have you written?
Four, although the first, entitled Dad’s War with the United States Marines, 2005, was improved and reissued as Ben’s War with the U. S. Marines in 2014. Those now in print are:
Crimes of Design, A Patrick MacKenna Mystery, 2012, 2014
Fatal Designs, A Patrick MacKenna Mystery, 2015
Ben’s War with the U. S. Marines, 2005, 2015
Radio: One Woman’s Family in War and Pieces, 2016
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?
My wife and I enjoy visiting our daughters’ families in Houston, I like swimming and golf, We attend theater, art galleries, concerts and the Missouri Botanical Garden, enjoying St. Louis’s rich cultural stew.
Connect with Peter H. Green on
Linked In: Peter H. Green