Saturday, April 18, 2015

0 Pete Hautman, author of EDEN WEST, on reading your work out loud

We're thrilled to have award-winning author Pete Hautman stop by to share more about his latest novel EDEN WEST.

Pete, tell us about your inspiration for writing EDEN WEST.

I began Eden West back in 2002, at the same time I was working on Godless. Both books deal with the differences and relationship between religion and faith, both are coming-of-age stories, and both are about a young man in conflict with his father. But in Godless, the conflict is generated intellectually—it is Jason’s thoughts that create dissonance—whereas in Eden West, Jacob’s apostasy is impelled by external forces. One might say that Eden West is an inside-out version of Godless.

As for the specific inspiration that got me started on Eden West, I was thinking about fences—chain-link fences in particular—and imagined two people meeting through such a barrier, and I wondered why the fence was there, why they were on opposite sides of it, and what it takes to make them climb over.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

Scenes involving multiple characters—such as the banquet scene, or the scene where Father Grace announces his betrothal—are always difficult for me, and I am never completely at ease with the result. Probably my favorite passage in the book is when Jacob is alone, following the gray owl through the Mire. I’ve spent a lot of time alone in bogs hunting for mushrooms. That scene feels particularly vivid to me.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

That’s a tough one, since I try hard to write books that are different from what is out there. I would NOT point them to other “cult books.” Maybe something like Lois Lowry’s The Giver, or Kindred, by Octavia Butler, whose work I recommend at every opportunity.

How long did you work on EDEN WEST?

Twelve years, with several starts and stops.

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

Every book is an education, yes? Working on Eden West, I discovered I have more empathy for those who are immersed in nonstandard belief systems than I expected to be. It’s easy to be snarky or intolerant of people-of-not-my-faith, and to forget that we are all fellow travelers. I think often of a line from Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer: “That we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin.”

What do you hope readers will take away from EDEN WEST?

I don’t really think that way. I’ve come to accept that I cannot control what happens once a book leaves my hands. When people start reading Eden West (or any book), they will make it into something new, something I never intended. Books continue to be “written” by readers after publication—the act of reading is a part of the creative process. I’ve done my bit as a writer; now I pass the baton.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

Pretty much all of my extant work has been or will be (I hope) published. Keep in mind that I wrote and destroyed thousands of pages before I ever submitted anything to a publisher. I was pretty tough on myself, in retrospect. But once I thought I’d gotten good enough, I sold my first novel (Drawing Dead) fairly quickly: six months to find an agent, twelve months for the agent to find a publisher, then another eighteen months for the book to come out. It felt like forever, but by industry standards, that’s pretty typical.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

It was a long road, so there were too many AHA! moments to count. There were also a lot of AAARGH! moments when I thought the novel had crashed and burned. At one point I went AAARGH! and set it aside for two years.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I’m kind of boring that way. I do all my writing at home sitting at my desk. In a coffee shop I am more interested in watching the people and eavesdropping when possible. I guess that’s part of writing, but not the part where words are being put on the page. I love the library, of course, and I spend many hours there doing research. That’s part of writing too. But I don’t “write” while I’m there.

I do get work done while running. That’s when many plot issues are resolved. When I get home from a run I often head straight for my computer where I drip sweat on the keyboard while recording dialogue that came to me during my run.

I don’t listen to music while writing, but I often have an informal playlist—songs I find myself listening to repeatedly that seem to get me into whatever headspace a particular story requires. For Eden West I listened to a lot of K.D. Lang and Dr. Dre. I know that’s weird; I can’t explain it.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Other than the usual—read, write, observe, rewrite—I’ll suggest one technique that has worked for me: Read what you’ve written out loud and record it, then wait a day or two and listen to yourself reading your own work. I use my cell phone to record, then play it back over the car stereo while I’m driving around. Painful and time consuming, yes, but I learn a lot about pacing, and I catch a lot of mistakes.

What are you working on now?

As I write this (in mid-March), I’m working on a rather unusual unboxing video. I just got my first author’s copy of Eden West, but I haven’t yet opened the scary package. I have the chainsaw, the goggles, and the mask. I am at this moment waiting for my camera operator to show up.

{Pete sent us the unboxing video of the scary package - click here to view it.}

I have a middle-grade sci-fi comedy coming out this fall (The Flinkwater Factor), and I’m putting the final touches on a YA novel about birth order and eating contests.


Eden West
by Pete Hautman
Released 4/14/2015

Tackling faith, doubt, and transformation, National Book Award winner Pete Hautman explores a boy’s unraveling allegiance to an insular cult.

Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Purchase Eden West at Amazon
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View Eden West on Goodreads


2762Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, and Invisible. Mr. Was was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Pete lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Visit him at

What did you think of our interview with Pete Hautman, author of EDEN WEST? Let us know in the comments!

Happy reading,

Jocelyn, Martina, Jan, Shelly, Susan, Lisa, and Erin

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