Q&A With Peter Spano


Please welcome Peter, a former business consultant turned writer and native of New York City. In his debut novel, “A Shadow at Winter’s Fall,” Peter draws on his personal experiences growing up in a family where Italian-American values predominated to address what he calls issues of the “human condition.” Join us as we discuss how he guides the reader through the lives of the two main characters as they navigate their individual struggles with unresolved childhood issues, crises of faith, romantic loss, betrayal, forays into hedonistic pursuits, self-determination, and their role in a rapidly changing society, all while attempting to reconcile a past that never materialized between them. When he is not writing, Peter can be found cheering on his favorite New York baseball teams, the Mets and the Yankees and cherishing the time he spends with his two amazing sisters.

Peter, first and foremost, take a second to introduce yourself, and tell me how/why you first decided to get into writing?

I am a 63-year-old Brooklyn boy.

“Pt” is a nickname I picked up at university, and I am professionally known as “Pt.” 

Only family members and childhood friends refer to me as “Peter.” 

I am unquestionably the product of an “Italian-American” family. 

Those who are not of Italian or European descent frequently describe me as “very Italian.” 

When I was younger, I used to struggle with this. 

As I’ve gotten older and family members have died, I’ve begun to embrace ‘being Italian,’ and I’ve resumed customs/practices I once abandoned in my foolish youth. I do infuse that background in to my writing.

I play electric bass and have fiddled (pun intended) with a cello. 

I am the youngest of three children and am fortunate to have two elder sisters. I dedicated my book to them.

I had always “ written”, As a teen I would write stories in pencil in a marble ‘composition book’ and read the stories to friends. I pursued a degree in “English Language and Literature” at university, and continued to write in “composition books” in pencil.  In university days I wrote for the college newspaper- I would write very short stories, usually humorous stories of a few hundred words.

If you wouldn’t mind share a little bit about “A Shadow at Winter’s Fall”?

It is my story, and my relationship with a woman I met in March 1975 and immediately fell in love with.  The novel, though there are changed names,  and a little exaggeration/embellishment to add flavor, is to the best of ability a recollection of events spanning the years. While writing it, I was in touch with the people mentioned ( most of the names in the story are the actual names of the people, except the two main characters) and sought out confirmation of my recollections which I wrote about. I wrote “Shadow” and along the way there was a lot of phone conversation with the real life  female MC… It was important for me to be accurate when telling the story…Yes, there is some embellishment for flavor and to keep the story moving, but in critical scenes where there was tension or an outpouring of emotion- it was important to recall accurately(to the best of our ability to recall events ). It is a challenge.

when you dive back in to the past , and you find how partial and incomplete your memory is, there are the facts you get wrong, there are facts you change, there are the facts you completely omit…there are parts of your past you don’t’ want to go back to, parts of yourself you don’t want to go back to…

The world remembers you as they do, you remember things as you do, and recollection is rarely accurate…each of us remembers what we need to remember.

What I learned during the writing of A Shadow at Winter’s Fall is – You can try to return to events earlier in life  by looking at old photos, or visiting the old neighborhood , or you can find someone who knew you back then. They still carry within themselves a picture of you, that’s unclouded by the years in between . They’ll remember you better than you can remember yourself, and you can do the same thing for them…but is this ‘memory’ all accurate? Perhaps it is at best, an agreed upon past.  Writing “ A Shadow at Winter’s Fall” one of my greatest challenges was questioning my recollections as well as the recollections of others. My goal in writing “A Shadow at Winter’s Fall” was to come to terms with what I refer to as “ a potential past”, to put in print my feelings for one female, and to put together a story that I could sell.

Have you had any other work previously published?

In my university days( late 70s)  I would write(typewriter) and using the university ‘binding’( if you know what that is) machine , copy and bind ( in spiral notebook form) stories I handed out to classmates, dormitory mates. I often “read” at reading nights when we were snowed in( which was frequently in Upstate New York near the banks of Lake Ontario).

I did complete three short stories that have never been published. One was a recollection of growing up in NYC in the 1960s ( The title was “ We Were Italians”   the other about chasing NY Yankees and NY Mets for autographs. The other was about 20K words of free prose that told a story about one night in NYC in the early 1970s, and the encounters from sundown to sunrise.

Who/What has been your reatest inspiration whenever it comes to your writing?

I always loved reading stories about men who loved one woman and could never manage to pull it all together.. In particular, I fell in love with Sartre’s “ The Age of Reason”  and Robert Briffault’s “ Europa “ ..I will always enjoy a novel wherein a man can’t seem to pull it together with a woman, I believe there is a dynamic  in these situations that is very interesting and provides insight to the spiritual  journey we call ‘ life’…

How would you describe your overall mood/theme to your writing?

Many say I write ‘ Romance”. I don’t believe that is accurate. I write stories about the human experience and love/romance is but one part of that experience.

Do you have any other current WIP that you would like to share with me?

Yes, I am about 40K words in to “ Our Letters, Our Lies” – which is not so much a sequel to “ A Shadow at Winter’s Fall” , though it does continue the story, “ Our Letters, Our Lies” can be read without having read “ Shadow”

From start to finish, typically how much time do you put into one of your books?

I run an Executive Search firm, we operate globally, which often finds me sleeping in two hour shifts around the 24 hour clock ..I tend to work on ideas,( hand writing them in composition books) and when I have enough meat on the bone, I make the time to bang it out. With “A Shadow at Winter’s Fall”, I spent about two months- after about two years of notes.

What has been the overall reaction from the public to your work so far?

I self-published, after declining an offer from a publisher. I am aware the adage is Indy authors will sell less than 100 etc. I am fortunate to have a database of 10s of thousands of people ( candidates) I have amassed during my recruitment career. It was easy to send an email to people I assisted to land a new executive position somewhere for a few hundred thousand dollars more annually and say “ You trusted me with your career move, trust me with my recommendation to buy my novel”, etc.  I had almost 800 pre-orders in while still getting my cover art finished.  I am just about at 10K sales since September 2022 and it has been a blast. I have had many , many signings and I get invitations from book clubs almost daily. I really enjoy signings and recently I had large one where I signed scores of books( I may have signed 100 one evening, I lost count.)

What does literary success mean to you?  Do you believe you will achieve it?

This is a tough one to answer. If one accepts the metric that Indy authors will be luck to sell 100, then I am a phenomenal success. Is it the ‘ success’ I want? I am content for now, if I never sell another copy, I can go forward knowing I sold 10K ( just about) copies in 4 months- which far exceeds the “ Indy authors will only sell 100-200 copies” line of thinking.  I “ believe” a lot of things, but I have to live in the real world!  I see people on Twitter lamenting ‘I only sold 30 copies” or cheering they “ sold 2 copies this month”. I don’t know how these people are approaching ‘marketing’ but some do have great books, that sadly will die in  obscurity on book seller platforms.  I wish all the best, but I am focusing on selling. I may be living proof that an average book marketed well is better than an great book marketed poorly. My goal was to write, and sell books. I have achieved that goal… A vast majority of my sales are “author copies” I have delivered to book clubs/reading clubs. As you may know, such sales do not count in stats; however I do not care. My goal is to sell books and Amazon ( not so much B&N or Apple) is a great platform for it. I collect money from book clubs, purchase X amount of author copies , sell for a profit that far exceeds the Amazon royalty rate and Amazon delivers them . It really could not be much easier for me. Amazon give me about $5.20 to sell my book on their platform. I can buy an author copy for $4 dollars and sell it for $18 , which is a far greater spread than Amazon offers . ..the benefits of a Prime account is free shipping. If Amazon wants to charge me $4 per copy and deliver them where I tell them to deliver, I will do this all day .  I never went in to this hoping to stand out in a sea of books on Amazon. I had a business plan, that plan was to leverage my database and sell to groups.  I continue to market my book to book clubs and not rely on the so-called individual sales.

What should we plan to see in 2023 from you?

With luck I get “ Our Letters, Our Lies” to market by autumn. It will be a novel of “ letters’ exchanged between the two MCs in “A Shadow at Winter’s Fall” over the course of one year, picking up one year after A Shadow at Winter’s Fall ends. It will give me the freedom to take the story of A Shadow at Winter’s Fall somewhere I purposely did not take it by the end of the novel. Whatever “Our Letters, Our Lies” ends up becoming, it will be consistent with A Shadow at Winter’s Fall– a dive in to the human condition- I am not one who is moved by or interested in dragons, witches or fictional children with magical powers. There is a market for that, I am aware. I prefer to write for those with more discerning taste that goes beyond made up characters with magic powers. There is cinema, then there are comic book movies. There is literature, then there are “ books” about dragons and vampires…Comic book movies are not cinema, dragons and witches does not make for literature.

Thank for reading......

Jacob Keiter

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