Friday, May 24, 2013

PeterHogenkampWrites: About the author

PeterHogenkampWrites: About the author: Hello all. In continued preparation for my website launch, I am posting the about the author section to my website for y...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

About the author

Hello all. In continued preparation for my website launch, I am posting the about the author section to my website for you all to review. Let me know what you think. And please share the link and leave comments.

I read my first thriller, an old paperback copy of Alistair MacLean’s Fear is the Key, when I was ten years old, and I have been hooked on the genre ever since. A few years later, in the summer before I began high school, I decided to try my hand at writing a thriller and I finished a good hundred pages before depositing it into the bottom drawer of my bureau. It would make a good story to say that I discovered the manuscript thirty years later, polished it up, and attracted dozens of literary agents with its magnetic power, but the truth is I have no idea what became of the notebook—I recall it was dark green—in which I scrawled a story about a maverick MI5 agent trying to save the world from a warped genius armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles.

I didn’t write another word—of fiction, that is—for twenty-five years, mistakenly thinking that the writing bug had been eradicated from my system. But it hadn’t been, and on a Saturday night ten autumns ago I picked up the pencil again and started writing novel number two, which I later titled THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT. It took me three years and a gross of Dixon Ticonderogas to complete the book, and several more to query the project, revise it, re-query, re-revise and query a third time. My lovely (and did I mention supportive?) wife Lisa, assuredly thought I was having an early mid-life crisis, but smartly concluded that a few writer’s conferences and twelve dozen pencils were cheaper than a BMW convertible.

I still maintain the manuscript wasn’t half-bad, and I almost hooked a literary agent with it—but in the middle of yet another revision (which the agent had requested) I learned she had left agenting to write 1920’s erotica, and I took this as a sign and tossed THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT into a shallow grave and shoveled dirt over it. But I didn’t remain on the sideline for too long; a premise had been germinating inside my head and I felt an urge to write it down somewhere (this time without the pencils). And whereas THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT had come haltingly, ABSOLUTION poured out of my fingers, largely, I think, because I had stumbled upon an idea for a main character that was not only truly unique, but truly conflicted as well—with a visceral conflict impossible to bypass.

All I needed was the right setting, and, as luck would have it, my pre-med advisor exiled me to Europe for three years before allowing me to attend medical school. (True story.) In my travels I found dozens of great places for scenes in a thriller: castles perched on cliffs, monasteries tucked away in alpine valleys, villages built above rocky coastlines, cities soaked in history, etc. I hope you will accompany Marco as he lays ruin to many of these places, beginning with Monterosso al Mare, Italy, where ABSOLUTION opens, and stay with him for DOUBT, the second book of the Jesuit thriller series.

When I am not writing I like to enjoy the beautiful landscape of central Vermont with my family, (wife Lisa, sons Dan and Tom, daughters Abigail and Maria, dog Hermione Jean Granger Hogenkamp). And I practice medicine as well, in an office with Dr. Lisa Hogenkamp—who does most of the work. (Thank you Lisa!)


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Great questions from the Kracht Klub.

I wanted to finish up the Q/A section of my website with several of the questions from the Kracht Klub, the literary posse that surrounds Liz Kracht, my fabulous agent.

Q) Do you use an outline when you write?
A) I have tried, but I find outlines to be very restricting and detrimental to my writing. I work best when I have a general idea what I want to do, and let things develop from there. For example, with Absolution, I knew I wanted to make the MC a Jesuit priest, and put him in a situation for which he was totally unprepared--by both disposition and training. Once I discovered the way to do this, the book essentially wrote itself, proving, as my friend Albie Cullen has always maintained, that "a good thesis writes itself."

Q) Do you listen to music as you write? Is there a particular sound track you like?
A)I do most of my writing in public places. Bars, eateries and coffee houses are my favorite settings; half of my book was written in Sugar and Spice, the world's best pancakery, in Mendon, VT. I find the vibrant atmosphere of these spots to be very stimulating--and I am a sucker for free internet. When I do write at home I absolutely listen to music: Dave Matthews is my top choice, followed closely by U2 and The Counting Crows.

Q) Do you know the conclusion when you begin writing?
A) No, definitely not. I think the not knowing lends suspense to the prose. And, in the few circumstances I have had to rewrite a scene to fit into a narrow plot window, I have had a hard time with the constraints. It is much easier for me to start with a basic premise or character and let things go from there. The problem with this approach is what I call floundering (name speaks for itself). But there is a cure for floundering, namely editing, and then more editing, followed by even more editing.

Q) How do you know when a rough draft is no longer rough?
A) It is my experience that you can not ever be truly done with a draft. No matter how many times you comb over it and remove the nits, there is always at least one or two more nits to remove. That said, at some point you have to pull the trigger and hit send--and there is no formula for this determination. I go with my gut: when the cymbal clashing of my intestines no longer sounds like The Flight of the Valkyries, I am ready.

That is a wrap on the Q/A, and my author bio will be the next post. I so appreciated all the help from the Kracht Klub on this post!

Friday, May 17, 2013

.More website content (Author website, launches next week.

Thanks to those of you who gave me some ideas and positive feedback about my website content. I will continue with the Q/A, using some of the questions which were suggested to me.

Q) I understand you lived in Austria for several years. What brought you there?
A) I should say I was lured there by a lifelong obsession with The Sound of Music, but the truth is I just couldn't stomach the idea of going straight to medical school after college--and my pre-med advisor suggested I take some time off. I was a little put off when he delivered the news, but it turned out to be a big favor. (Shout out to Dr. Michael McGrath!) It was his idea I move to Europe, and he even helped me find a job teaching chemistry at an international preparatory school in Salzburg. I had only planned on staying for a year, but I fell in love with Salzburg from the moment my train rolled into the Bahnhof and I gave serious consideration to making it home.

Q) Parts of Absolution are set in Salzburg. Did you envision setting a book there when you were living in Austria?
A) Those of you lucky enough to have traveled to Salzburg will know that it is impossible to not envision setting a book there. It is the most dramatic city I have ever visited, with a 900-year old fortress perched on a rocky bluff above the city. The mountains can be seen from many points inside the city, rocky crags slashing open the alpine sky. (sorry, I got carried away.) There is a sense of history there that makes you take notice, and there is intrigue around every corner (as well as a bosna stand; I recommend the number 2, with extra wuerz.)

Q)Absolution begins in Monterosso al Mare, in the Cinque Terre region of Italy. Why did you begin the story there?
A)There is a reason UNESCO made the Cinque Terre a World Heritage Site. From the minute I arrived there (on the local train from La Spezia, dragged there by my friend Bill Olsen who just kept saying, "Trust me on this one") I knew I had found the place that would haunt me forever. Time stops in the Cinque Terre; as Marco says in Absolution, "Nothing changes in Liguria, that's why I like it here."You don't have a sense that won't be stimulated by the environs; I can still smell the aroma of frying sardines. (Unfortunately, I can also smell my friend Bill's rank hiking shoes, which we would not allow inside the train.) The view of the aquamarine waters of the Ligurian Sea from the sentierro azzurro, the clifftop walkway that connects the five villages, is alone worth the price of admission. But it is the sounds that I remember the best, the rhythmic crashing of the waves against the rocks and the continual arguing of the gulls.

I am going to end here, and finish up the Q/A with a post over the weekend, with help from my fabulous literary agent Liz Kracht and several members of the Kracht Klub. As always, I appreciate your support and love your comments (both good and bad--but more so the good.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Help me edit my website content. (Please!)

With the help of the incomparable Maddee James from, (Ok, it's true, she is doing everything) I am launching my author website,, 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.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

PeterHogenkampWrites: It's my submissions day! (I am making that term up...

PeterHogenkampWrites: It's my submissions day! (I am making that term up...: To celebrate the day my agent has sent off my pitch to various publishers, (she does all the work and I do all the celebrating--this is a gr...

It's my submissions day! (I am making that term up, but feel free to send me a Starbuck's giftcard to mark the day.)

To celebrate the day my agent has sent off my pitch to various publishers, (she does all the work and I do all the celebrating--this is a great gig) the following is a list of several of my little darlings that were killed by the Liz the literary agent. If you like any of them, please respond somehow. If you agree with Liz (that these lines deserved the painful death to which they were sentenced) please keep it to your self and your therapist (who you are going to need if you make it through this sampling.

Some of the killed darlings:

1) ...but it occurred to Marco there was another motivation at play, deep below the surface like a giant grouper, lurking malevolently in the coral. (of note, Marco is a fisherman so the giant grouper simile pertains, No?)

2) Blood trickled out of his mouth, coloring his beard red. His intestines spilled out from the wound in his abdomen, spewing forth a noxious mixture of blood and stool. (How could anyone not like this line! Tell Liz next time you see her.)

3)..but at least she wouldn't confuse herself with someone who could get to heaven on her own merit, as if she didn't need His Grace for anything more than a tiara to adorn her head as she walked through the pearly gates. (It pained me to cut that one... how many times can you put the word 'tiara' into a thriller?)

4)But it was the smell that would plague him the most, the scent of sweat and terror that lingered despite the heavy aroma of the caper bushes that clung to the rocks below his window. (I can almost smell the capers...)

5)He passed a small church on a hill top and wondered if the parishioners were goats and cows, because they were the only living creatures he'd seen since leaving the main road. Not that he was complaining, because it wasn't often that a barnyard animal was able to identify a car or remember a plate number; of course, anything was possible in this infernal country. (I thought humor was always good?)

6)... her blue shirt had darkened with sweat, and clung to the heavy swell of her breasts with a tenacity that left little to the imagination. (And I didn't even read 50 Shades... maybe I should have!)

7)He assumed he was having an unpleasant dream--if the gentle pressure of her heavy breasts against his chest could be interpreted as unpleasant.

8)Could a dream really be this soft? Could a delusion really smell as good as she smelled, as if he were ensconced in a thicket of honeysuckle. (Honeysuckle smells really good!)

I think you get the point. To be fair, in many cases the lines were cut because of their effect on pacing. Absolution (my book) is a thriller, and the pacing needs to be fast--too much description slows (as I have learned.) But hopefully you have a sense of what I was taking about in earlier posts, and it was fun to air these lines out a little. If you liked a line, let me know. If reading one of the above lines made you search for a sharp instrument to stick in your eye, you can tell me that too. After five years of this, I have developed a thick skin.

Thanks for your attention, and please share the link. I now have editors reading the ms and the more blog views the better.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

PeterHogenkampWrites: Why you should want to work with a literary agent!...

PeterHogenkampWrites: Why you should want to work with a literary agent!...: Hello again. I haven't posted in a while, being busy doing the final revision of my manuscript--tentatively titled Absolution --taking a...

Why you should want to work with a literary agent!

Hello again. I haven't posted in a while, being busy doing the final revision of my manuscript--tentatively titled Absolution--taking a lot of naps, watching reruns of Downton Abbey etc. Over the past month, I have greatly enjoyed working with my agent, the talented Liz Kracht of Kimbereley Cameron & Associates, and I thought I would dedicate a post to the reason why. In a nutshell, the working partnership you form with a good literary agent will make your ms stronger.

When you devote yourself to something like a writer devotes him or herself to a manuscript, you want feedback. Although it is true there are numerous ways to get feedback--Beta readers, critique groups, having your mother read it--the best feedback will always come from an agent. I was very fortunate to have three excellent beta-readers (shout out to Thomas Cosgrove, Kirsten Marsh and Olga Lawrence) who provided me with keen insight into what was working and what did not. (As an aside, if you haven't done the Beta-reader step, stop everything and do it.) But the kind of feedback you can expect from your literary agent--the one that signed the contract and mailed it to you--should be quite different. Think of it this way: my cousin Thomas is a wonderful guy in every way--with the exception of his golf game, which will not be spoken about here--and he is an excellent writer as well (check out his blog at But he is a banker (or something like that) not a professional editor. There should be a difference in the provided feedback.

I think it is unlikely your Beta-readers will point out significant flaws in your ms. Why not? Because they don't want to hurt your feelings! As a case in point, I asked a dear friend of mine, Dr. Edward F Callahan--who taught English at the College of the Holy Cross for over thirty years--to be a Beta-reader. In his e-mail turning me down, he said he had soured enough relationships with honest critiques, and he didn't want to add one more to the list. (translation: 'Hogenkamp' I've read enough of your tripe at Holy Cross when I was paid to do it!)

And, with the exception of Dr. Callahan, it is not a sure thing that your beta-readers will recognize the subtle things--especially in terms of characterization--that can make or break your ms. Your agent does this for a living, and she is investing a lot of her time and energy, which means she would like to get paid. To get paid, she needs to sell your ms, and to sell your ms she needs to make sure it is as good as possible. If a character in your book is falling flat, she will recognize it and tell you!

A good agent will also kill all your darlings; your Beta-readers will not! I can not tell you how many times Liz underlined my wonderful lines and wrote, NO! I have spoken about this before, but it can not be emphasized enough. In my opinion, the best part about the process was seeing how she liked individual paragraphs or sentences or even words. I have spent entire hikes thinking about what exact word to use in a certain spot, and it is gratifying to see that it was well-chosen (or not, usually not.)

I will end here(it is nice out and I want to walk my dog) and take up this same theme tomorrow. (I bet you can hardly wait!) Thanks again for your time and attention; please comment and share the link. :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013