I'm so pleased to have William Peak here today to answer a few questions about his writing life:
1. If you could live during any time period, what would you choose and why?
Tough question. So many to choose from. I’d probably have to pick Galilee in the years that Jesus walked the earth. I’m afraid I’ve always been a bit of a doubting Thomas. I’d like to at least see and talk to the man, if not place my hand in his side. “But blessed are those who …” Probably a miserable place to visit anyway, what with the Roman occupation and the opportunity afforded their subjects by those ungentle men to die any number of horrible deaths. So, if I didn’t pick the Holy Land, my next choice would almost certainly be Athens during the Golden Age of Greece. To be there at the beginning, to listen to the great philosophers and scientists and statesmen as they met and talked and set Western Civilization in play. But, then again, Gettysburg, the day of Lincoln’s address, or London in the time of Shakespeare, Paris in the ‘20s….
2. How did "The Library Guy" get started?
As the only male member of staff that our patrons at the Talbot County Free Library are likely to encounter at the reference desk, it was only natural that people would start calling me “the library guy.” Add to this that I write a regular column about the library (archived at www.tcfl.org/peak/) for our local paper, The Star Democrat, and it wasn’t long before perfect strangers were hailing me on the street, “Hey, library guy!” Nowadays, even my wife calls me “the library guy.”
3. If you could have any writer from history over for supper, whom would you ask, and what would you serve?
Virginia Woolf wins the dinner invitation hands-down. In my opinion, To the Lighthouse is far and away the best novel ever written. And of course I’d serve her the meal that, in turn, serves as that novel’s centerpiece, a daube.
4. Seven years to find a publisher? What kept you going?
Desperation? It just felt like desperation. I had worked so hard, for so long, and then to find that no one seemed to care. It was, to say the least, disheartening. Eventually though, thankfully, I went to work at the local library, and there’s nothing like working in a library to teach you how fickle the nature of publishing is, to say nothing of the tastes of those of us who read what publishing publishes. One becomes philosophical.
5. Did your Master's Degree differ much (in topic) from your Baccalaureate?
My B.A. is in English Literature, my M.A. in Creative Writing … so I guess you could say the second was meant to teach me how to make the first.
6. If "The Oblate's Confession" were to be turned into a film, whom would you like see in the major roles?
Haven’t really thought about this before (and it’s hardly my area of expertise), but if I had to take a stab at it, maybe Daniel Day-Lewis as Prior Dagan, Robert Duvall as Father Gwynedd, Anthony Hopkins as Ceolwulf, Daniel Auteuil as Victricius, and Gérard Depardieu as Abbot Agatho. The roles of Winwæd and the other oblates would, of course, have to be filled by some as yet unknown child actors. Amazing how well they can get child actors to perform these days, amazing and a little disturbing. Not sure how I feel about that.
7. What are three places on your travel bucket list?
A float trip down the Amazon.
I’d like to live for several years in Provence and finally learn to speak French properly.
8. About which would you rather talk, religion or politics (if either)?
I guess religion, though I’m terrified of both topics. The world’s become so polarized these days; everyone seems ready at a moment’s notice to leap to the attack for the flimsiest of reasons. I think we need to learn how to disagree amicably with one another again. That’s what civilization and democracy are supposed to teach us, respect for one another and tolerance for different views. Given the current state of affairs, I’d rather talk about baseball.
9. Is there special meaning in the book's cover art?
Actually there is. The monk’s tonsured head shown in the cover’s central device is taken from an image in an illuminated manuscript of Bede’s Life of St. Cuthbert (British Library MS 39943) that shows a group of monks opening the grave of St. Cuthbert and discovering, to their amazement, that his body remains incorrupt. Without the Venerable Bede and his remarkable histories of Anglo-Saxon England and the early English Church, I would not have had the information necessary to flesh out a novel set in 7th century Britain. But my connection to the man goes deeper than that. Converts to Roman Catholicism get to choose their own patron saint at the Rite of Initiation. For understandable reasons, I chose St. Bede. My wife chose St. Cuthbert. And so, at a stroke, the artist who designed my book cover, however unwittingly, paid tribute to both our patrons. St. Bede and St. Cuthbert now rest together in that most magnificent of England’s late Romanesque buildings, Durham Cathedral.
10. Do you think the "Dark Ages" have gotten a bad rap?
Yes and no. While, from the historian’s point of view, the “Dark Ages” are not nearly as opaque as that designation would lead one to believe, they were certainly a time of upheaval in Britain, with plagues, sectarian strife, and tribal warfare enough to satisfy even the most jaded of tastes. And though the name itself—“The Dark Ages”—may be, technically, inaccurate, it is wonderfully suggestive. As a writer, I rather like it.
(See my review dated Wednesday, December 3, 2014.)