How do you feel you’ve separated your work from your father’s?
That’s an excellent question. But first, let me share a quick story. I took several creative writing classes in college and and had fun and did quite well. I wrote a six-page short story after I graduated, and sent it to my father. A few days later I got his three-page review in the mail, the gist of which was: your characters are like strips of leather drying in the sun, they all look and sound the same.
I didn’t write another word of fiction for twenty-seven years, but not because I was afraid what my father was going to say, that heavy-handed critique had passed. I had started an ad agency. I was writing ads, married and raising four kids.
But one day I became tremendously bored writing ads and I wrote a novel, and on the strength of it, I got an agent, and then a publisher-an amazing experience.
Now let me answer your question. I chose Elmore’s genre and had to suffer the consequences early on. Readers were irate: “How dare you? You think you’re as good as your father? No way.”
Critics compared my first book, Quiver to forty of Elmore’s novels. Fair or not, it’s what happens when you follow in the footsteps of someone who’s famous.
I set my first two in Detroit, and decided I had to get out from under Elmore’s shadow. So I set a book in Munich, and another in Rome.
Now, a couple books later I don’t think about where I set a story as long as I tell it well.
Elmore has repeatedly said: I’m not concerned with plot. I let my characters tell the story.
I let my characters tell the story too, but for me plotting is essential to keep the reader off balance, keep the reader guessing. That’s how I separate my work from my father’s.
Peter Leonard lives in Birmingham, Michigan. He has published four novels: QUIVER, TRUST ME, ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRL, and VOICES OF THE DEAD.
Synopsis: Rome: McCabe and Chip, two American exchange students, are about to become embroiled with a violent street gang, a beautiful Italian girl, and a flawed kidnapping plan.
Detroit: Sharon Vanelli’s affair with Joey Palermo, a Mafia enforcer, is about to be discovered by her husband, Ray, a secret service agent.
Brilliantly plotted and shot through with wry humor, ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRL sees these two narratives collide in the backstreets of Italy’s oldest city.