Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
This week Peter Pollak stopped by for a visit.
Wolf: Welcome to Wolf Notes, Peter. Tell us a little about yourself:
Peter: Born in upstate New York to refugee parents from Nazi Europe, I wanted to write stories from the time as a teenager I finished Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. That was the first time I realized what writing could accomplish—namely, it could give me a vehicle to reveal who I am, what is important to me, and at the same time give pleasure to others. Not equipped at that point to write anything anyone would want to read I postponed that ambition until I retired from my careers as a journalist, educator, and entrepreneur in 2007 and told myself, “it’s now or never.” Six novels later, I’m not ready to slow down.
Wolf: If you could be any animal in the universe, what would it be and why?
Peter: A lion because I was born under the sign Leo.
Wolf: What is the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?
Peter: Some of my own cooking.
Wolf: That’s funny. If you had to pick a weapon, what would it be and why?
Peter: That depends on the circumstances, but if someone dangerous was about to break down my front door, a double-gauge shotgun would be handy.
Wolf: What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Peter: Give them a voice. Of course, they’re not real, but they represent reality as I see it. They become real to many of my readers as well.
Wolf: What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Peter: Put them up against insurmountable odds and really nasty antagonists.
Wolf: You’ve just been turned into a plant. Describe yourself.
Peter: As a plant I lack consciousness and therefore can’t describe what I don’t know.
Wolf: Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Peter: Dog person. Cats are too independent while dogs can lift up one’s spirit by the way they welcome you when you’ve been away or take them out to the park to play.
Wolf: While walking in the woods you come across…
Peter: While walking in the woods, I come across signs of a struggle in a small clearing. There’s fur and blood on the ground and broken branches and matted down grasses. I begin to search the area to find clues to what took place, and at first I come up empty, but then I see it . . . the outline of a body. I’m almost afraid to approach given that the victor might be near by, but I have to know if it’s still alive. The body is partly hidden by a thicket of brush. I move closer one step at a time and start to push open the bush, but prickles grab at my hands and shirt. I pull back. Picking up two branches from the ground, I use them to part the bush. What in the . . .? The body is covered in grey fur, but has legs and arms like a human. It is the size of a child and its head resembles a rodent with a snout rather than a nose. I poke it with one of the sticks. It doesn’t move. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a voice says. I jump back and turn around. There stands a tall creature with an elephant head—a short trunk and large ears, but the eyes—the eyes are human. I’m not sure how I made it out of the woods alive, but I’m warning you. Stay away from the university’s forest preserve. You may not come back alive.
Wolf: Makes you wonder what they are experimenting on. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
Peter: All of them.
Wolf: So you’d be a super super hero. There is a door at the end of dark, damp corridor. You hear rumbling. What do you do?
Peter: I’ve come to the end of a dark, damp corridor. I entered the corridor in the basement of a university building that is no longer being used while searching for the right office to renew my parking permit. It was out of that ridiculous curiosity that always gets me in trouble. I just had to know where the corridor went. I stand in front of the door debating whether to open it when a sound that I must have been ignoring breaks through my consciousness. It’s a rumbling sound like water rushing through a channel with nothing impeding its progress. The door is my only hope. I reach for it and then . . .
Wolf: The world is about to end. What is the first thing you do?
Peter: Tell the nut-job who keeps telling me that to get a life.
Wolf: Which of your characters is your favorite?
Peter: I like Nick Grocchi, the protagonist in my first novel, The Expendable Man, because he represents an everyman––someone who isn’t in a great place in his life in part because he’s the kind of person who doesn’t think much about the future. He just acts on his instincts and as of late they have failed him. Now all of a sudden he’s in deep do-do and he’s got to change his approach to life if he’s to have any chance of surviving.
Wolf: Describe a meal you would be served while visiting another world.
Peter: I guess I’m supposed to eat what’s on the plate that’s been placed in front of me, but I can’t really describe it because I’m on another world and don’t even know the language. I look around and everyone’s looking at me. No one is eating the food in front of them. I look down at the piles––one looks like head cheese, another like large un-ripened grapes, and the third is a red puddle that resembles blood. Instead I pull out a Snickers bar and take a bit and pass it to the person on my right. “Try it, you’ll like it,” I tell him/her/it.
Wolf: What story are you working on now?
Peter: I’m revising my fantasy novel that I call The Way. It’s a coming of age story involving multiple protagonists which is probably why it has taken me years to finish. At the same time I’d like to make some progress on another thriller—this one featuring a female FBI protagonist who comes from the most unusual background.
Wolf: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Peter: Read, play Words with Friends, watch a very small number of TV shows with my wife—small because I can only find a small number worth watching, play golf and especially take walks when the weather permits.
Wolf: Why do you write—is it to make money or fulfill some void in your life?
Peter: The answer is neither of the above. I’ve nurtured a story telling craft over the course of my life by reading and trying to write stories to the point where I have what I think are some interesting story ideas and I’d like to find out if I can pull them off. Writing to me is like doing the crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Every morning I can’t wait to get to that day’s puzzle to see if I can find the proper word; in terms of writing I sit down wondering if I can find the proper sentences to make the characters come alive.
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