Interview Thursday: Peter Pollak

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a retired former journalist, educator and entrepreneur. I’ve wanted to write novels from the time I was still in high school, but never gave myself permission until I retired 10 years ago. The result is I’m publishing my sixth thriller this fall. In between, of course, there has been a lot of sweat and fears. I could not have gotten where I am today without a coterie of beta readers. I’ve also benefitted from attending writer conferences, including Eckert College’s week-long Writers in Paradise conference, and from participating in critique groups run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society and Maryland Writers Association.

What would you say is your more iconic novel and why?

That would be for more readers to judge. My first novel remains my best seller perhaps because it tells the story of a man who winds up in prison in Turkmenistan having been framed by the U.S. government. In between that and my most recent are two police procedurals set in Albany, New York, featuring a female detective and male retired detective.  House Divided, my 2015 political thriller, tells the story of a family divided by a contemporary political issue where lives are at stake.

Which writers inspire you?

I’m inspired by fiction writers who have a unique story to tell and a unique way of telling it. I was an early science fiction fan, having taken out a subscription to the science fiction book club while still in high school. Doing so exposed me to Asimov, Heinlein, LeGuin, Harrison, Clarke, and so many others. But I’ve also read the classics from Conrad to Mann, from Joyce to Proust; and American writers from Henry James to Henry Miller to John Updike and Upton Sinclair. My reading list today remains eclectic. Although I write genre fiction, I feel it is imporant to sample the best of literary, genre and even children’s lit.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

I have not.

When did you decide to become a writer?

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was a teenager after having read Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. My first attempts were immature and amateurish. I kept at it for years although never giving myself permission to take my goal seriously until I retired 10 years ago. I had to overcome the fear that I didn’t have the talent to be a writer. Today I understand good writing is a result of both talent and effort. I approach it as a craft that requires the practitioner to keep working to perfect his/her skills with the understanding perfection is impossible.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

I consider my writing my full-time work and try to spend some time on it seven days a week, usually devoting mornings to it.


Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

Plotter or pantser? I’m a bit of both. I move from a inciting idea to an outline fairly quickly, but by outline I don’t mean a detailed scene by scene or chapter by chapter description. Rather I start with a general narrative description of the story characters and plot, but before long I create a spreadsheet to keep track of where I am and where I want to go. I also let the story take me where it wants to go, which means adjusting the outline frequently.


Do you have a strategy for finding reviewers?

I’ve built up a fairly decent list of people who have read my previous books and signed up for my newsletter or blog. So, I start with that list, offering them ARC copies if they promise to post a review on my release date. I also search for bloggers and Amazon reviewers who focus on my genre and offer them ARC copies as well.


What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

For the most part any review is better than no review. I also am not so proud as to think my work is above criticism. So as long as the reviewer is serious, I’ll accept the message without wanting to kill the messenger.


How can readers discover more about you and you work?

My website––offers an opportunity for people to sign up for my newsletter and to subscribe to my blog. Don’t worry about being innudated with either. I only publish the newsletter 3 or 4 times a year and post to my blog once a month at the most. I also answer questions posted to the comments section.


Any Comments for the Blog readers?

I’m happy to do blog radio shows, Facetime/Skpe book clubs, and I will submit guest blog posts on writerly topics upon request. As coordinator for the critique groups for the Howard County division of the Maryland Writers Association, I am sensitive to the needs to beginning writers and believe my experience can be helpful.


Any feedback for me or the blog?

Love what you’re doing on behalf of the writing community.

I’m happy to do a give-away of House Divided, my 2015 political thriller.


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