Pete Hautman: Plunging into the Unknown
National Book Award Winner Attends Festival for First Time
By Haley Wilson
For my first interview, I prepared to talk with award-winning author Pete Hautman by first perusing his website. There, I found an author armed with a quick wit, a lengthy list of works, and a wide variety in audience, not to mention an avid love of mushrooms!
Once given the opportunity to send a few questions his way, I picked up a few clues on the ins and outs of Hautman’s career. While he writes for both adults and teens, his more recent works inhabit the Young Adult genre, including stories of teens worshipping a water tower such as in Godless (winner of the National Book Award), traveling through time within The Klaatu Diskos trilogy, or cooking pizzas near the frigid Arctic Circle, as in Rash.
Hautman will make his first appearance at the South Dakota Festival of Books in September. In addition to meeting attendees, Hautman is eagerly anticipating the long drive from Minneapolis to Deadwood. “The Corn Palace, Wall Drug, the Badlands, Rushmore…it’s all good.”
Hautman admits his career in writing began with a bit of a slow start. After debating being a writer for twenty years while writing sporadically and keeping his work private, he decided the time had come to knuckle down. “At age thirty-six I figured my working years were half over, so I’d better get serious. I made writing the most important thing in my life.” Getting serious included three a.m. writing sessions, learning to accept criticism, and “writing like a demon.” After much revision and approximately ten rewrites, Hautman’s novel, Drawing Dead, was published four years later. Since then, Hautman has released over twenty-five books, the majority for young adults, as well as co-written with authors such as Mary Logue.
Tailoring to All Ages
Since his first novel, Hautman has written for vastly different age groups, but he doesn’t mind the challenge. “Challenging work is stimulating. If taking on a novel length project doesn’t scare me, I get bored… I stimulate my own creativity by plunging into the unknown.” Though this strategy (or non-strategy, as Hautman terms it) hasn’t been ideal for book sales, he finds excitement in surprising the reader with unchartered content, writing for no one’s expectations but his own. When I ask about what to anticipate from his upcoming novel, Eden West, to be published in April, he replies enthusiastically, “Something completely different, of course!”
Although Hautman has written for adults in the past, his favorite characters stem from his work in YA fiction. When asked to choose just one character as a favorite, Hautman simply couldn’t narrow his affection that far. He jokingly protests, “How can you force me to name my favorite child?” He instead settles for naming three: Uncle Kosh, from The Klaatu Diskos trilogy because “he’s a lot like me, and if you don’t like yourself, well, that would be sad”; Kelleigh Monahan from How to Steal a Car, because “I think if I were a fifteen-year-old female car thief I would be a lot like her”; and finally, Ginger Crump of The Flinkwater Factor, adored because “she is not like me at all.”
Attendees of this year’s Festival of Books will have the opportunity to discuss with Hautman his upcoming book, get advice on the writing process, and more. He shares, “I love meeting readers and booksellers and authors, and this sounds like a great opportunity to do that in a relatively relaxed setting far from the overwhelming insanity of big city book festivals. I plan to have a good time.”