Newtown Literary Contributor, Andrew J. Peters

Andrew J. Peter’s short story, “The Trouble with the Finklesteins,” is published in the second issue of Newtown Literary.

Image 4What is your relationship to Queens?

I met my husband at a bar in Jackson Heights, which was pretty random for both of us since I was living and working on Long Island at the time and he was living and working in Manhattan. When it came time to look for a place to live together, we ended up renting an apartment in Kew Gardens because we liked the pre-war buildings and the location was an easy commute to work for both of us. Eight years later, we bought that apartment, and we’ve come to appreciate the neighborhood even more.

I work in Manhattan now, and it’s great to come home to a quiet neighborhood where you don’t have to fight for space walking down the street, but there’s still an urban feel. It’s very culturally diverse. Walking around town, you’re as likely to hear people talking in Russian, or Spanish, or Arabic, as you are to hear people talking in English. There’s even a little enclave of French-speaking residents, which always perks up my curiosity since I’m an unabashed Francophile. Many gay and lesbian couples have settled down in the neighborhood, so it’s a comfortable place to be “out.”

How would you describe the writing you do?

I mainly write fantasy, and I write contemporary pieces like “The Trouble with Finklesteins” from time to time. For short fiction, I try to portray just enough in a few scenes to bring a character or two to life, and hopefully by the end to leave the reader feeling satisfied that this was a story worth peeking in on.

My longer-form fiction veers toward retold legend and fantasy. My two main projects right now are an e-novelette series called Werecat, and a series of books based on the legend of Atlantis.

How did you come to writing?

I was a shy, introverted kid so writing came pretty naturally to me as an escape. I may have actually been my most prolific in grade school and junior high when I wrote a lot of mysteries and plays that imitated the authors I was reading—Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse, and, later, J.D. Salinger and Anton Chekhov.

But I didn’t take up writing professionally until my 30s because it didn’t seem like a practical career. I still have a day job that pays the bills, and I eke out time to write in the evening and on weekends.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the complexity of the world, and I think mainly what that means for me is the complexity of human nature. There’s so much paradox in our lives: the messages we receive about what’s “right” and “wrong,” and the things we feel and think versus the things we do.

I like to try to unravel that paradox in my writing. In “The Trouble with Finklesteins,” I drew on two sort of typical “characters” from Kew Gardens: a flight attendant and a housewife. It’s a smallish story, with a bit of parody, but the theme that kept me moving forward with it was the modern bind of creating some security for ourselves in the form of marriage and family versus the need to maintain a sense of individuality.

I think that many of us are pulled in both directions and wondering where our true happiness lies. That’s not such a new theme in literature. Thinking about it now, I was definitely channeling some Chekhov. But it’s an enduring theme I think. Telling that kind of story with Kew Gardens as a backdrop felt like an interesting way to take the issues from a different point-of-view.

What does it mean to be a writer living in Queens?

I think writers are inevitably influenced by their environment. So to the extent that there’s a shared experience of inter-cultural encounters and all the joys and discontents of living in an urban center, that lifestyle finds its way into what we write about. My fantasy projects are far derived from the characters and places I deal with on a daily basis. But however indirectly, I would venture to say my writing reflects an urban sensibility.  For example, when writing about Atlantis, an ancient civilization, I was curious to explore the mix of cultures that I feel must have existed in the world’s earliest urban center. When fleshing out the setting, I wanted to touch on the social and political life of Atlantis as well.

Andrew J. Peters likes retold stories with a subversive twist. He is the author of the paranormal adventure series Werecat (Vagabondage Press). His début novel The Seventh Pleiade (upcoming in November 2013 from Bold Strokes Books) is the story of a young gay prince who becomes a hero during the last days of Atlantis. A 2011 Lambda Literary Foundation Fellow, Andrew has written short fiction for many publications. He lives in Kew Gardens, NY with his husband and their cat Chloë. For more about Andrew and his writing visit: http://andrewjpeterswrites.com

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