Peter D. Vast - Kidnap, Murder, Assassination Attempts, Fishing, Strange Mushrooms and Sea Monsters
Peter Vast is a middle-aged accountant with no formal training in the dark arts of writing, but don't let that put you off - he now considers hiself self-taught! He loves quirky, humorous, writing with a dark soul, and so that is what ends up in his books. His main influences are Douglas Adams and Stephen King. If you put them in a blender with a large helping of dark matter and a light sprinkling of his DNA, it might spit out one of his books. His second novel, The Ticket, a thriller/bloodbath centered around greed and revenge, and set in a remote location in 1980's South Australia, is imminent, and a sequel to Planet 42, The Source, is forming deep in my mind. As he continues to develop his craft, enter competitions, and approach publishers in the hope of one day having a manuscript accepted by the literary overlords, Peter hopes you can join him on the journey - it promises to be one hell of a ride. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Planet 42.
Please give us a short introduction to what Planet 42 is about.
Planet 42 is essentially about the best and the worst of the human condition. Something has gone horribly wrong with the new society that rose out of the ashes of the last great civilization that inhabited Earth, now known as Planet 42. A chance discovery by three young students leads to a series of shocking revelations that takes them on an epic adventure and pits them against unimaginable evil. The story is dark and quirky, and I’ve added generous sprinklings of humor to drive the characterizations and lighten the mood here and there. If you put Douglas Adams and Stephen King in a blender, it would be messy, but as a metaphor for what to expect in Planet 42, it does the job nicely.
What inspired you to write about a scenario where people are disappearing at an alarming rate?
I had to come up with a hook, a suggestion that something terrible could be happening, something that the all-powerful State governance was doing their best to hide. Two of the characters are affected directly by this, and it’s their motivation to find what has happened to their loved ones that drives them to make the discovery of the Elyssium Program, something they are not supposed to know about.
Why did you pick Planet 42 as the backdrop for your story?
I wanted to write about a world where A.I. had been allowed to take too much control. I suppose I was seeing what was happening in our world with drones and autonomous vehicles and I wanted to project that into the future somehow. It works well in a sci-fi setting as you can take all sorts of liberties with as yet unknown future technologies. It was fun to write about.
Tell us more about the Elyssium program.
I cant! It would be giving too much away. All you really need to know is that it isn’t good. Not at all.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m a gamer. Always have been, always will be. I guess I’ll never grow up, but that’s ok, I’m comfortable with that. I took up sim racing a couple of years ago and quickly became addicted, and in fact, that is where my journey as a writer started. I ran a race series that had a quirky (that word again), left field theme each week, and it was a hoot. I remember one week we had a Jane Austen-themed set of races that descended into people doing impressions of Mr. Darcy and Ms. Austen while racing. It was crazy, and a whole lot of fun. I used to write up humorous recaps of the event each week, and it was so much fun that one day I thought, why not try and take it to the next level. The end result is what you see now, the tortured writer, wrestling with characterization and plotlines, day in, day out, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
You are an accountant. How has this influenced your writing?
I suppose you would think that it would mean that I am methodical in my methods, but quite the opposite is true. Writing is my creative outlet and when I write I’m often the antithesis of anything remotely resembling organized, almost as if the writer in me is my alter ego.
Who is Andrew Weems? What makes him tick?
His neurosis. It might sound strange, but Andrew reflects the self-doubt and fears that we all have that we aren’t good enough. He’s driven mainly by the fear of messing things up. He’s awkward, says the wrong thing, but somehow comes through when he’s most needed, an easy character for readers to relate to, I think.
Why dystopian sci-fi? What drew you to the genre?
I didn’t know what the genre was, even when I’d finished the first draft. I was calling it a comedy horror sci-fi thriller, but it’s not really that. Although there is plenty of humor, it’s dark, very dark, in places. A friend suggested it was more like a dystopian tale, and the label stuck. It fits well, and the setting allows scope for the imagination to run wild, something that I particularly enjoy as a writer.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about how it came about.
Planet 42 is my debut novel. When I published it I didn’t know much about cover art, and I’d used the backdrop photo you see on the cover today (a photo my stepdaughter took as part of a school project) and Kindle Direct Publishing’s in-house cover creator. The result was a fairly plain, dark cover. It reflects the mood of the book in many ways, but it was only when I joined a writers group recently and got some feedback that I decided to re-do the cover. I used the Gimp free photo editing software and added the face, blackened the eyes, and worked some other dark magic to come up with something that, without giving anything away, works perfectly with the dark horrors revealed late in the story.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
Claire Renshaw. She is the heroine of the piece but isn’t immediately easy to like. She is single-minded, brash, and doesn’t play well with other people generally. As the story develops the reader gains an understanding of what made her this way, and gets to know another side of her. I really wanted to create a strong female lead character, and there is no doubt in the final, frenetic scenes, that she is anything other than that.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plan out your stories before you start writing?
I’m a bit of both. I started Planet 42 with only a vague idea of the plot and it developed as I wrote. Editing was consequently a bit of a nightmare and it took a lot more work than it should have to pull everything together. A lot is going on in the plot, with different storylines that all had to come together at the end, and it was hard work to pull it off. For my second novel, The Ticket, a blood-soaked and gritty thriller set in ‘80s South Australia, I plotted each chapter but not each scene, and the process was much smoother. The result is a taut and horrific thriller and is not for the faint-hearted. For my latest project I’ve plotted every scene in detail, considering what the scene achieves in relation to character arcs and storyline, the POV, what the characters are thinking and feeling, and the sights, sounds and smells around them. It’s working well so far.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I have to fit writing in around everything else. Family comes first, then pets, work, chores, etc and then it’s writing if there is time. I usually manage a scene every other day, either early in the morning or late at night.
What are you working on right now?
I’m actually working on the sequel to Planet 42 – The Source. I’m very excited about the plot. It’s going to be a wild ride, and I hope to have it more or less finished by the end of the year. I’m keen to do something different next, maybe a toilet-humor children's book or even a religious erotica romance crime thriller – I’ve heard they are the top-selling genres so I thought I’d try and combine them all - call me crazy.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I have a freshly created website, https://petervast.wixsite.com/website, a Facebook page, ‘Peter Vast the Author’, Twitter and Insta, and who knows, maybe even a TicTok. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to be doing with any of the social media stuff, but it’s there. The website is the best bet, otherwise, my books are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon. If anyone out there does decide to read any of my work, thank you, and I hope you enjoy the ride.