With the help of the incomparable Maddee James from xuni.com, (Ok, it's true, she is doing everything) I am launching my author website, peterhogenkamp.com, next week. So, I thought I would enlist your aid to help me write/edit the content. We'll start with the Q/A section. Please let me know what you think of the question I asked myself, and the answer I gave back. If you can think of another question you'd like to ask me, please do, I am sure I can confabulate something.
Q) When did you start writing?
A) I have been writing stories since the first grade, and I received my first rejection (of many, many more) in the fourth grade, after submitting a story about a police dog to the New Yorker. I started my first novel in the eighth grade, but abandoned the effort after receiving bad reviews from my father. Ten years ago, I picked up the pencil again, and started scratching another novel in an old college notebook. Those pages ended up in the filter of my sister-in-law's pool, but it was too late for me: I needed to keep writing.
Q) The main character in your novel is a Jesuit priest. What made you want to write about a Jesuit?
A) Ever since I picked up an old paperback copy of Fear is the Key by Alistair MacLean, (a must read) I have loved reading thrillers. I have read hundreds of them: political thrillers, medical thrillers, legal thrillers, military thrillers, and spy thrillers. After a few dozen, you start picking up on a few trends, like the main character (MC) who is an ex-CIA assassin battling a drinking problem, or the disgraced Navy Seal who is called upon to save the world and rescue his red-headed ex-girlfriend in the process. I wanted to put a different type of person in the mix--an entirely different type of person.
In my first attempt I slid a forty-year-old physician into this role, and forced him to take lives rather than save them, albeit in an effort to protect the woman he loves. There was a built-in tension I liked, a natural conflict (and conflict drives stories.) I thought it was pretty good (and so did my mother) but I couldn't quite hook a literary agent--not with a lot of duct tape, anyway. So, I kept looking for that MC who would jump right off the page. In the process, I did a lot of reading and stumbled across Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon, an art restorer who also works (reluctantly) for the Mossad as an assassin. I was hooked from the word go.
And I was inspired. The concept of a priest/assassin popped into my head shortly thereafter. Not only was it novel, but there is a wonderful psychological tension that adds a second layer to everything that transpires. I loved the idea; it became only a question of how to make it happen in a plausible way, and that hit me a few weeks later as I climbed a local peak.
The Jesuit thing was a no-brainer, as I was educated by Jesuits at Holy Cross College and have immense respect for the order. If I can think even a little--please don't ask my family to comment--it is because of the Jesuit priests at Holy Cross.
Q) Tell us about Marco Venetti, the Jesuit priest in Absolution. What's he like?
A)Marco is a parish priest, shepherding over a quiet parish overlooking the Ligurian Sea. (The Cinque Terre, the most beautiful spot on earth.) As the story begins, he is sitting in his confessional on a sultry July day, waiting for the penitents to come. But he isn't praying or reflecting as he waits, he is ruing the poor play of his favorite soccer team and thinking about Madellena, the woman who still occupies his heart. I wanted to set the tone in the first paragraph, establishing Marco as human and interesting.
I am going to end here, to see what kind of feedback comes my way. Please send some questions my way, and thanks as always for your time and attention.