Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome Roger Peppercorn, author of On The Devil’s Side Of Heaven, for an author interview.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roger Peppercorn has suffered for the better part of his life from wanderlust and this need to see the other side of the horizon has taken him to all parts of the world. The people and backdrop of his travels have served as the inspiration behind his characters and storytelling. As a child, his mother taught him to read and write. His father’s collection of Louis Lamour novels provoked the fantastical images in his mind and the romance of the written word. In the seventh grade, his history teacher brought the characters of a bygone era alive. From that point on, Roger began to hone his skills in storytelling. After high school, Roger took a course in creative writing that was taught by a long haired hippy in a Hawaiian shirt. Roger’s grandmother used to tell tales of traveling across the plains in a covered wagon, the woes of having a son sent off to war, and the larger-than-life man she met at Pea Green Hall who later became her husband. His first two novels “On The Devils Side of Heaven” and “The Sometimes Long Road Home” take place on the western slopes of Colorado, in the sleepy town of Fruita, where he grew up. They center on the strained relationships and sorted histories of three characters – Walt, Ronald and Jessica, and violence that erupts around them. Roger is married and is a father of four beautiful children. He currently calls South Dakota his home.
Can you please tell my readers about your ambitions for your writing career?
To entertain my readers first and foremost. The compliments that has meant the most is ‘such a great story, I just couldn’t put it down and my favorite there is going to be a follow up right?’
I love to tell stories so to have anyone who is willing to read something I’ve written is humbling and flattering.
Money and success would be awesome. It would be great to see the brinks truck back up to the front lawn every day and dump lots and lots of cash on the front lawn. I mean who wouldn’t love that? And if that should ever arrive I’m not going to pretend I would just turn them away out of some artist integrity.
But the reality is at this stage in my life being known as a good storyteller and having the respect of tried and true writers giving a tip of the cap to my stories would mean more to me in the long run and having my wife and kids proud of my work means the most to me. Having people in your life who are closest, tell you what a good read it is, is what gives me the energy to keep writing and telling stories.
Which writers inspire you?
There are a couple of modern writers, James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane are two of my favorites. Both of them have a style and visceral backdrops and characters. I love the way they paint scenes and write dialogue. I think they may be the best writers of our time.
Tell us about your book?
The book is center on two men and a woman. Walt and Jessica are brother and sister. Ronald is married to Jessica but was the childhood friend to them both.
Walt is a lot closer to someone everyone knows he’s that hot mess in the office but he’s the only one that seems to not know it. An alcoholic whose been fired from being a cop and now is getting by as an insurance fraud investigator. Walt sees the world generally through the prism of an empty bottle.
Ronald has the moral compass of a rock and is a contract killer but oddly it’s not the killing that is an issue for him. It’s being reduced to hitman. He prefers the term human resource manage.
Jessica is the tie between them. Sister to Walt and married to Ronald she is the thing that keeps them connected and from killing each other. She is also the reason they both have moved on from their chosen professions. But is also the reason why they must come together to confront a threat to all of them because of Ronald’s prior bad acts but also because of their own shared violent past.
Ronald’s past begins catching up to him but instead of dealing with it like he would or maybe even should he makes promise not to kill again. Which is how Walt gets drug back into it. You watch both of these guys start morally in very different places and then steadily march towards each other.
Walt erases line after line he swore he would never cross only to see Ronald drawing a line and stepping back from it. It’s fun to watch that play out.
On The Devils Side of Heaven is a fast paced character driven adventure. It’s visceral and is played out in the adobe deserts and the mountains of western Colorado.
How long did it take you to write it?
10 months from start to finish. But like I was just saying it spent about two years in my noggin before I sat down to write it.
The books I didn’t finish I spent anywhere from a few weeks to a few months working on.
The other difference this time is the scenes were so clear and the characters were vivid and three dimensional.
You know, the other thing too is this book here wrote itself, where the other books just stopped. Probably for a variety of reasons, but the plots and arcs just didn’t hold like this one did.
Are you working on any other project(s) right now? If yes, what are they?
Yes, I am working on the follow up now. Which is titled “The Sometimes long Road Home.” It will take place about eighteen months to two years after the first one. I’ve done a lot of research and have about ten scenes laid out. I know where the arcs are and the ending but there are a few details I am still working out. I’m probably around twenty pages into it right now so lots of work to do.
Why have you chosen this genre?
Good vs bad or right vs wrong has always been fascinating to me mostly because there most of the time there are versions of what people think is right and wrong depending on their perspective and beliefs. My brother is detective in south TX. He has said repeatedly the line between police and criminal can be very narrow but with nuanced distinctions. As an example both will look at an unattended cash register and the first thing they both look for is ‘who’s watching?’ While the rest of us are wondering where the clerk is so we can check out and go home.
That similarity has always been intriguing to me and a good storyline in that genre is rich, layered and textured. A good caper story keeps you rooting for the thief not the police. Which is socially wrong but in the realm of entertainment a character like the Punisher is rooted for. Maybe its wishful thinking we have socially to write our own justice or to get away with it.
So for me it all comes down to storylines and perspective.
Which is a long way of saying yes that particular genre has always been my favorite read.
When did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve either been cursed or blessed with an active imagination. Because in my head I’m always writing something. Sometimes it’s watching the interaction between people on the street, or a song on the radio will trigger a scene in my head as its playing. So from that aspect at least for me, it’s always been a lifelong thing.
Actually writing is a different thing. Getting a book written and published has been on my bucket list for a long time. I’ve started two or three times on different themes and story lines, but at some point the story stops or life gets in the way and I set it down with the intention of finishing it but don’t.
The difference this time is the story started to come alive in my head in 2013 and it rolled around for a couple of years until it dominated a lot of my waking time.
Why do you write?
Honestly the motivation is to get the words and images out of my head. I lived with the first book for about two years in my head and dreams before I set down to write it. Most of the stuff I produce that I really like comes out of living with it for a while. Turning it over and over. Wash, rinse and repeat. This book came about because I just wanted to get it out of my head and on the page to read.
I really got serious about writing when I started my blog. I know, I know everyone has one and some of them are really not good at all I leave them up for better or worse because it’s a way for me to gauge how I am progressing and maturing in the words and how they fit together.
Where do your ideas come from?
So this goes back to what I was saying earlier. I see and get ideas all the time from music to the people and things in my environment. For me at least it starts with one scene and then progresses from there.
This book here started by a visit to a friend out in the adobe desert of Loma CO. It was so isolated that it stuck me that only people who are looking to get away from society or maybe the law chooses this place to set down a home. From there I started to see scenes play out in front of me. It would take a couple more revisits to see my folks and time on the road in places like Texas and Florida before the whole thing came together for me.
This next novel I’m working on is called ‘The Sometimes Long Road Home’ came alive from an off handed comment of a friend of mine. The whole story just exploded in front of me.
How do you prefer to write? On computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
Laptop definitely. I do have a notebook app on my phone and tablet for thoughts, notes or bits of dialogue I’m working on. I wish I could say I have one of those little bedside notebooks and a pen for dreams you see guys rolling out of bed and franticly writing in the middle of the night but pretty much when I wake up I almost never remember what the dream was or if I do what it has to do with anything. And talking into a recorder just seems weird to me not to mention making myself awkward for no good reason.
What are your 5 favourite books and 5 favourite authors?
This is a tough one because there are a lot of authors I enjoy for different reasons. Just leafing through my kindle I probably have a dozen different authors. But if I had to narrow down my favorite authors and by extension the books they’ve written it would be in no particular order. James Lee Burke, Dennis Lehane, Harlan Coben, Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard.
Sins of the Father, Creole Belle, A Drink Before the War, Stick and Deal Breaker.
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
I’ve never had a situation where I didn’t know what comes next or where the beats are at. But more than once I have had problems with needing a character to get to a certain place but half way through I realize they would not say those words or take that particular action and have to rewind the scene and start over with how they would act or speak.
There is also the occasional problem where I’ve had a scene and get almost to the end and realize I just ended the story in a very logical way but that’s now what I need to happen. As an example there is a scene that takes place in a taco shop between Walt, Ronald, Marcie (Walt’s high school sweetheart) and some state cops. Without giving it away they walk outside and the cops confront both Walt and Ronald. Now in real life they probably go to jail which is bad because I’m on like page one hundred.
I tried a few different scenarios to end the scene the way I wanted but it just didn’t write believably. What I wound up doing is calling my brother the cop and ran it past him. After a lot of back and forth where he ended every sentence with “it wouldn’t happen that way and they go to jail.” Says my brother the cop
I finally said its fiction and just has to be believable enough to keep the story moving.
He gave me what is in the book but it took a lot of effort to drag that out of him!
What advice would you give to new aspiring authors?
You have to love the process of storytelling first and foremost. Write the stories you want to read and write for your enjoyment and freedom of movement of the mind and expression. Unless you have the magic ticket to literary freedom and success be prepared for a very long road to getting published. Building an audience and a following takes time, energy and some money on your part. But there are a lot of support on social media that can help. Lastly don’t expect anyone in the “bookstore” business to really help out a lot. You are your own best advocate for your work and your brand
Sometimes stories or scenes just don’t write and when it happens take some time for reflection maybe hit the backspace key a few times and either start again or better yet look for those off beat paths that are adjacent to the one you are working on. But never let it stop the story.
Thank you, Roger, for all your interesting answers!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
With the drop of a judge’s gavel, Walt Walker has finally lost everything. The badge and gun he used to carry and the moral certainty of right and wrong, good and evil that used to keep him grounded. Now Walt, sans gun, gets his badges from an Army Navy store. He spends his days in South Florida, working for a boutique insurance firm as their investigator. He spends his nights in dive bars, trying to forget the mess he has made of his life. Ronald Jacobs always preferred the title Human Resource Manger to Hitman. But now that he’s retired, he can concentrate on living in the shadows as a respectable gentlemen farmer. Far from the reach and pull of his past life. Their transgressions are behind them but a chance encounter and a failed assassination attempt sets the two of them on a collision course of violence and retribution. Hunted by contract killers, the law, and corporate bag men, they are pursued across the unforgiving adobes and the sweeping vistas of the Mesa Valley in Western Colorado. Survival means putting their past in front of them and their differences aside, because in this world the only thing that matters is to cast not others on the devil’s side of heaven, lest you be cast in with them.
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