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Publishers’ Preview: Debut Authors: Peter Brown Hoffmeister

Publishers' Previews

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2016 Horn Book Magazine as part of Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a first book. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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In Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s This Is the Part Where You Laugh, Travis has a lot to worry about: his grandmother’s illness, drug addiction in his family, and an attack on his best friend. But when things are that bad, sometimes you just need to laugh.

Hoffmeister_Peter_Brown1. Like Travis, you spent time in juvie. Were any books important to you then?

PBH: I wasn’t in juvie long enough to read anything, but while I was homeless, Jerzy Kosiński’s The Painted Bird was an important book for me. I was wandering. The boy in the book was wandering. I was sleeping in hedges, under bridges, behind dumpsters.

2. How much of your experience with the Integrated Outdoor Program is in the book? Any run-ins with caimans?

PBH: I’ve fished and paddled with my IOP classes. Some other real-life outdoor experiences are there, too. My family and I were camping in the desert when there was a flash flood. Thousands of huge spiders came out of the ground and all migrated in one direction.

As for caimans…my wife’s Auntie Ruth lived in the house where this book is set — on that lake in Eugene, Oregon — and I always joked that someday I’d release caimans to give the residents something to talk about. Since I didn’t do it before Ruth died, I had Travis do it.

adpreview_hoffmeister3. How did you come up with The Pervert’s Guide to Russian Princesses?

PBH: What would a poetic eighteen-year-old boy write about in linked letters? Erotic notes to young women from the past seemed like a fun answer. Also, Alexei Tolstoy’s Peter the Great was one of my favorite books when I was a kid.

4. Can you talk about the role of humor in difficult times?

PBH: When I lived in a Greyhound station, I’d have moments when I was really angry. But then I’d be sleeping under the bus station counter and start to giggle. “Am I really here? How did it come to this?” Laughter is essential to survival.

5. You’re a high-school creative writing teacher. What have you learned from writing and revising your first published YA novel that you’ll share with your students?

PBH: I had these young characters that I wanted to write about, and it was my job to be true to them, to create the best book possible. That’s what matters. Love the process.

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