Peter Kassan has been a writer for virtually his entire life, publishing poems in literary journals and national magazines while still a teenager. In his twenties, he was a staff writer at Children's Television Workshop, where he wrote, among other things, monologues for Bill Cosby. As a technical writer in the software products industry, his work included user's manuals, marketing materials, and business plans. He is also the author of a cover article about artificial intelligence in Skeptic Magazine. Mr. Kassan currently lives and writes in Connecticut. Lightpoints is his first novel.
Which if any of the characters is a lot like you and why?
The two characters most like me are Dr. Wagner, who leads the near-death-experience support group, and Lisa’s boyfriend John, who like Lisa and Amanda also has the sense. When I wanted to express my own opinion, I’d put it in the mouth of one of them. They take a scientific and rational approach to the sense.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
The plot. Working out a way for the storyline of the protagonist, the gangster Carlos Herrera, to converge with that of Amanda in a way that was plausible, convincing, and inevitable. And then figuring out a way for Amanda to extricate her from her impossible predicament at the climax of the story.
What is your favorite chapter or part and why?
I can’t single out one favorite of the entire book, but I particularly enjoyed writing the scene in which Amanda’s boyfriend Chris shows his paintings of the sense to Lisa and John. It had to work on many different levels: Chris himself describing how he executed each painting; describing each finished painting; and describing everyone’s reactions to each painting. And, since I’m writing a sense that no one really has—at least, as far as I know—there was the challenge of making it all convincing. Of course, that was the challenge throughout the book.
What has been the best part about writing this book?
The best part of writing the book was being completely absorbed in the process and forgetting about everything else in my life. I enjoy the feeling of mastery when the writing was going well. The best part of the book being published is hearing from people who enjoy and appreciate it.
Do you have a specific writing style?
My style varies with what I’m writing. In the kind of third-person narration Lightpoints is written in, I try to use an unobtrusive style. I strive for a consistent tone. Readers should be able to listen to the story being told in their heads without ever noticing the storyteller. If I do something that calls attention to itself—by being flowery or by editorializing or just by writing badly—that jostles the reader from the dream. And once you’ve been woken from a dream, it’s awfully hard to return to it.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve always enjoyed the paranormal, and I wanted to create a new sort of paranormal being that didn’t involve magic or religion or other more familiar supernatural forces. I’ve coined the term “naturalistic paranormal” to characterize Lightpoints. Once readers has bought a ticket by granting me the premise in the opening scene, I hope they find everything that follows completely plausible and convincing.
How did you come up with the names of your characters?
With the exception of Amanda (I give my female protagonists names that start and end with the letter A), I determined the year they were born and then used the U.S. Census website to find names that were popular for babies then. For last names, I used a website that lists the most common names in America. For foreign names, of course, I did my research on other sites.
What advice would you give a new writer?
Everything—every word, every punctuation mark—is important, so learn the basics: spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Study how writers you admire handle these fundamentals. Pay attention to detail. Reread, edit, and rewrite again and again. Work hard. Have fun.
If you were stranded in an island, which book would you want there?
The unabridged Oxford English Dictionary, because it’s the longest book I can think of—thirteen folio volumes plus two supplements, if I remember correctly—and because I find the English language fascinating. You could spend a lifetime reading and studying that one book.
Can you tell us about your next book?
I’ve just started working on what I intend to be first volume of a YA paranormal trilogy. The protagonist is a seventeen-year-old girl named Alyssa living in Topanga Canyon, California. In the opening, Alyssa is surfing, all but drowns, and has a near-death-out-of-body experience. When she’s rescued and resuscitated (by a cute young lifeguard), she discovers herself to have a sense like the one in Lightpoints, although it works a little differently. The working title is The Zombie Problem, but these zombies are completely unlike any you’ve ever encountered.
Thank you Peter for visiting us today. Interesting point about what you strive for in your writing, "Readers should be able to listen to the story being told in their heads without ever noticing the storyteller.". Sounds difficult. No wonder I'm not an author!! Oh, I'm curious now why you have your female protagonist start and end with the letter A ..do tell.
It was nice having you here. Much success to Lightpoints and your upcoming trilogy!
What if you suddenly discovered you had a sense-and powers-that almost no one else in the world did? When Amanda Lindner Nichols, a 24-year-old graphic artist living with her husband in Queens, New York, is revived from a near-death experience, she discovers she perceives everyone around her as points of light-but not with her eyes. She soon learns she can not only perceive the life energy of others, but she can give and take it. With the help of others like her, she brings her husband Chris to the brink of death and back to bestow on him the same remarkable faculty, and they're the happiest they've been. But not for long. All over the world, people who've been revived from their own near-death experience at just the right moment discover themselves with these same unusual powers. They find ways to use them-some for good and some for evil. When Amanda and Chris encounter a ruthless group of gangsters with the same faculty, tragedy follows-and Amanda faces the greatest challenge of her life.
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