Peggy A. Wheeler Interview

My non-fiction articles, short stories and poetry appear in numerous Colorado and California publications, small press magazines and anthologies.

What inspired you to write?
I was an awkward, lonely, little girl. Books were my company. I started reading early, and began making up fantastical stories when I was quite young. At age six, I wrote my first book, "My Life." The book was my memoirs, since at age six, I had so much to say. Hahahaa

I used crayons for the cover art and illustrations. I stapled all the chapters together with my cover art. My first book was truly a self-published marvel. I imagined my teacher would give me an A+ and invite me to read my wonderful book out loud to my class, and all the kids would love my book and want to be my friend. My teacher gave me a C- and said I had no talent for writing. I was crushed. But...I continued to write anyway.

Did the inspiration to write come to you suddenly, or had you been thinking about it some time?
I was a technical writer for decades, and then I was a poet. My masters thesis was a volume of poetry. I also wrote and published non-fiction for years. When I was 57 years old, an idea popped into my head for a novel. That was six years ago. Since then, I've written four books and have about thirty more in my head. I suppose I'm a 'hybrid,' meaning I've been writing all along, but the notion to write a novel late in life popped into my brain rather suddenly.

How did you tell your story? In other words, did you use an outline, or just write your story from start to finish?
I'm a pantser. I don't outline or plan. I sit down with the general idea of the characters, the general premise, and how I want the story to end. I find a working title, and just do the writing. As I'm telling a story, things come to me. Characters kind of "tell me" what they want to do. The story arc evolves almost on its own. My job is to sit at my desk, put my hands on the keyboard, and not allow myself to become overly distracted. The rest almost happens "automagically". Once I've completed a comprehensive draft of a manuscript, I regain full consciousness. That's when the hard work --- the editing, beta readers, and rewrites come into play.

Did you receive any encouragement from family and friends, or did you work on your book alone?
I'm extraordinarily fortunate to have a husband/partner who is right there with me every step. One reason I want to be "successful" as a writer (whatever that means), is to pay him back for his steadfast belief in me, and his support all these years. He's believed in me even when I failed to believe in myself. Without him, I don't know if I'd be writing novels right now.

What was the most difficult part of writing your book?
I have self-confidence issues. Even after I've written a beautiful passage or chapter, I think "This is crap. No one is going to like my books. Who am I kidding?" I fight that every day.

What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing your book?
The creative process is pure bliss. Once in that writing zone, I'm at peace. Nothing bothers me. I restore myself. I heal. I gain energy.

Did you experience any personal transformation after the book was published?
When my debut novel came out last year, I nearly cried out of joy. What I went through to get that book published by a legitimate publisher is something I cannot quite explain. Over 80 agents and publishers rejected that book. That's not including those who simply ignored my query. I finally found a small press in Australia to take it. Turned out not to be a good deal. I ended up pulling the manuscript. Then a friend recommended another small publisher in the U.S. I thought for sure they would accept the manuscript. They turned it down. Gwen Gades, the owner of Dragon Moon Press in Canada, offered to take a look at it. A few months later, we had a contract, and a few months after that, a book. A beautiful book. Yeah, I went through a transformation for sure, and in doing so, I learned if you have written a good book, and you know in your heart of hearts it's a good book, don't give up on it.

What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity?
Self-doubt is a dream killer. Also, I'm a bit ADHD, so it's not easy for me to focus on any one task for too long. Lack of discipline, inability to focus, and self-doubt -- the unholy trinity for me as a writer.

What strategies do you use to deal with criticism?
Mostly, I brush it off. I've been rejected so many times, and the reasons sometimes, if the acquiring editor or agent is kind enough to say why, the reasons are illogical, or their objections are easily fixed, or sometimes their reasons are contradictory...meaning one editor loved the characters, but couldn't connect with the story. Another thought the premise and story arc were amazing, but the characters are too flat. Over time, I learned not to take other people's opinions of my work too personally.

Now, critique -- that's different. I think too many writers confuse "criticism" with "critique." A good critique (an analysis with recommendations for improvement) is invaluable to a writer, and is not a criticism of the writer's skill or her work. If someone takes their time to critique my pages, I am always grateful, and I pay attention, even if I do not use the suggestions. If a writer keeps their ego at bay, a good critique not only provides an opportunity to improve a piece, but critiques can teach an author so very much.

Where did you grow up and what is your favorite/worst childhood memory?
I submitted a 5,500 word piece to an anthology on growing up as a victim of bullying. That was my worst childhood memory.

I was born in Bishop, California, but my mother and I moved so often (she left my father when I was four) that I cannot recall the names of any of the schools I attended prior to high school, and since we never lived in any one neighborhood for more than a few months, I had very few friends growing up. We mostly lived in southern California, Ventura, Los Angeles, San Bernardino counties.

Do you have a favorite quote?
I have several. The one that keeps recycling for me is "Happiness is a choice." I don't know the author.

What is your favorite show on TV?
Right now, The Man in the High Castle. By next week, that will change.

Favorite movie?
Wizard of Oz

Favorite book?
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Who would you want to meet if you could? Dead or alive.
Richard Feynman

Is there a talent you wish you had?
I wish I could speak multiple languages with great fluency

What’s something about you that would surprise us?
I spent a week in jail after participating in a blockade against the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant. I never went back for arraignment, and ended up on an FBI list for a few years. I almost didn't get my first tech writing job at a bank when they did the background check and found my name.

Describe yourself in 3 words!
Cool Old Broad