Writer & Teacher Tom Peek - photo by Britten Traughber

From time to time I feature other authors on my blog. Today I am very excited to have Tom Peek on Muse News.  
Tom Peek, author of the award-winning novel Daughters of Fire, has written for more than three decades and is now focused on fiction. His other work includes newspaper stories and commentaries, magazine articles, university publications, national park exhibits and award-winning video productions.
 
Tom also teaches writing. Since 1991 he’s inspired hundreds of islanders in his acclaimed writing workshops, including on the Big Island, Maui, Lanaʻi and Vancouver Island in Canada. Tom also consults individually with writers, helping his clients revise drafts for publication and mentoring new writers on writing, revision and small group critique. 
 
Tom lived the first half of his life on an island in the Mississippi River in Minnesota, and the other half on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. He and his wife, artist Catherine Robbins, live in a rainforest cottage a few miles below the erupting summit of Kilauea volcano.
 
To learn more please visit www.tompeek.com and www.daughtersoffire.com.
 
Heather: Tom, thank you for joining me today. Being new to living on the island of Hawaii I’m eager to meet and connect with other writers. A mutual friend/writer connected us and I’m grateful. I understand you are an author and workshop presenter. Can you tell us about your novel “Daughters of Fire”?
 
Tom:  Sure. Thanks for asking. Daughters of Fire is a journey into the deeper beauty and hidden turmoil of today’s Hawaiʻi. On one level, the novel is a page-turning adventure of romance, intrigue, myth and murder, but it’s also a serious multicultural tale with a contemporary plot and characters that illuminate the cultural tensions of post-statehood Hawaiʻi.
 
Heather: I see you lead an interesting writing workshop called “Writing on the Wild Side”. It sounds interesting. Can you tell us more about that?
 
Tom: It’s a Saturday workshop on October 21 at the Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village (www.volcanoartcenter.org). This particular workshop in my series focuses on using our pens to explore the wild side of our minds.
 
We’ll do a bunch of fun, offbeat, sometimes provocative writing exercises that stimulate our intuitive capabilities and propel us into our creative “right brains”—the imaginative, untamed part of our minds that’s so important to writers and other artists. We’ll also practice silencing our inner critics to free up our wilder, less conventional—more unique—ways of looking at the world and putting that on the page.
 
Heather: Recently someone asked me why I write. A few short, quick answers came to mind but when I sat down and thought about it more was revealed to me about my motivation. It was eye opening. Now I want to ask you, why do you write?
 
Tom: I have no real choice. It’s the way I’ve always explored how I feel and think about my life experiences and the world around me, and how I then express all that to others.
 
Heather: What are you working on now?
 
Tom: Another novel, this one set on the Big Island’s 14,000 foot volcano Mauna Kea, a holy place to Native Hawaiians and home to some of the world’s largest telescopes. That’s where I lived and worked when I settled on Hawaiʻi Island after vagabonding through the South Seas. It’s also where I met some of my closest Native Hawaiian friends and mentors.
 
Heather: Can you share with us a little about your writing process? Are you more of a “Pantser” or a “Plotter”?
 
Tom: Definitely a “Pantser,” but I don’t think of that as merely “writing by the seat of my pants.” I write with my gut, my intuition, what my Hawaiian friends call “naʻau.” That approach allows me to tap my deepest capabilities without the self-conscious thought that often inhibits writers. I sit down—with pen or keyboard—and watch what comes out, then work with that material through multiple revisions during which I also rely heavily on my intuition. I first learned this approach when one of my writing mentors sent me a copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, and it’s the foundational method I teach in my workshops.
 
Heather: In addition to writing books, do you blog, or write poetry? How do you allow the muse to work through you?
 
Tom: Yes, I sometimes blog on the Daughters of Fire website (www.daughtersoffire.com). Once in a while my thoughts come out as a poem, and I’m occasionally moved to write commentaries for newspapers and other publications. I also compose music on my upright piano.
 
Muses play a role with all of these. I’m drawn into that probing, contemplative place by nature, light, water (from either sea or river), sounds in the wild, winds, and of course music, jazz especially.
 
 Heather: What tips do you have to overcome writer’s block?
 
Tom: Just do it. In other words, trust what’s already inside you and then focus entirely on the process of writing, not what your mind is telling you the outcome should be. Of course doing that is easier said than done, but separating one’s self-esteem from the practice of writing goes a long way toward overcoming self-conscious writing, self-censorship, and cliché ideas. It’s when we’re focused on our misgivings—rather than the infinite possibilities of our hearts and minds—that we get hung up. Writing block occurs when fear rather than faith in our writing process dominates what we’re doing.
 
Heather: What is your process for stepping into the character?
 
Tom: First, before writing—all the time I’m living in the world—I pay attention, observe carefully and listen attentively with as full discernment as possible. Then I draw on that storehouse of observations to create characters who are fascinating, memorable and also believable. In portraying them, I tap genuine emotions that I or people close to me have personally experienced, and I bring into the picture personalities, physical characteristics and the psychological dynamics I’ve observed in other people.

Heather: Do you have any advice for writers on how to put away the creative hat and put on the revising hat when it comes time for revisions?

Tom: First, think of revision as RE-VISION—to see again, more deeply or with sharper eyes, rather than editing, which implies cutting and correcting.  Re-vision is a much deeper, more enjoyable process, and just as creative. Second, revision is not about rejection, it’s about open-hearted acceptance of the writing practice we’ve committed to, a part of which is improving our work. Self-esteem should never contaminate the critique or revision processes. These two important principles are among the five I teach my clients and emphasize in my Enlighted Revision workshop.
 
Heather: Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today. Where can our readers find your novel Daughters of Fire?

Tom: At bookstores and other venues in Hawaiʻi, including gift shops, airport newsstands, some Target and Walmart stores, and at galleries, including the Volcano Art Center Gallery in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The novel is also available at some bookstores on the continent and at most online booksellers. Two of Hawaiʻi’s finest independent bookstores, Basically Books in Hilo and Kona Stories in Keauhou carry the book.
Mahalo, Heather, for your excellent questions and for inviting me into your blog!
 
 

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