What writing are you most proud of?
It is hard to choose one child over another. I suppose if I were asked to choose the one I thought most worthy of a Nobel Prize for literature I would have to go with GOSPEL OF HANNANIAH, the story of Jesus’s illegitimate daughter. It is the Greatest Story Ever Told meets Dickens.
When you are not writing, how do you relax? My son Stephen and I climb small mountains. My kids keep my quite busy. I visit family in Maine, enjoy the local Boston sports teams, and like the occasional movie. Recently I enjoyed LINCOLN and LES MISERABLES. I would travel more, but have to be frugal until I hit the best seller list.
How often do you write? And when do you write?
Right now I am busy promoting, so don’t do any writing. When I am writing, I try to maintain a rigid schedule. If a novel is going to be about 400 typed pages, I try to sustain a goal of five pages a day. This means I finish the novel in under two months. So far, I have been able to maintain that regimen. I write when I can. Early morning is best. Afternoon is worst.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
I wish. It has been, of sorts, but I would have to say it is like working for a non-profit.
What do you consider the most challenging thing about writing a novel or about writing in general?
I may have touch of ADHD myself, so I need to have a semblance of order before I begin to write. This means a thorough outline so I know from Point A to Point z where I’m going. (Though I often take unexpected detours) The actual writing generally flows quite well when I have a good outline to work from.
What cause are you most passionate about and why?
Many things, but my latest two novels have dealt with environmental issues and global warming. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, how can you as a parent or grandparent take the risk and do nothing? The economy is another big issue, the growing disparity between the rich and poor. It is greed that makes the bottom line more important than the life of our planet.
In the last year have you learned or improved on any skills?
I’m probably better at self-editing. In the past I have paid a professional editor to review my finished product. Financial constraints have forced me to take on the role of editor as well as writer.
Do you have any rituals you follow when finishing a piece of work?
I sacrifice a more successful writer to the literary gods hoping that with less competition I’ll have a better shot at recognition.
Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?
I can’t say that anyone has particularly influenced my writing. My mother has been a constant support when the writing just didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
What is the most important thing in your life right now?
My children. My twin sons are autistic and will need parental support as long as it can be given.
Who do you admire?
My mother, 90 and going strong. She has been extremely supportive of me and my own family.
Could you please tell us a little about your book?
DEVOLUTION features 16-year-old Chiku Flynn. Chiku was born in the Congolese rainforest to two anthropologists studying the local chimpanzee population. For the first eleven years of her life, Chiku sleeps, feeds and swings through the trees with the chimpanzees of the Maiku National Park. When her mother dies, pulled into the Mamba River by a crocodile, Chiku is sent back to the United States where she becomes a maladjusted teenager diagnosed with depression, anxiety, mood disorder and is medicated for the lot. Her father’s disappearance forces a return to the jungle where Chiku finally finds her true self among the chimpanzees with whom she can communicate using sign language. In Swahili Chiku means ‘chatterbox’. The chimpanzees of the Maiku National Forest know her simply as Talk Talk.
What do you feel people will take away from your writing?
How will your words make them feel? I have always felt that a good book entertains, but a very good book does more. It teaches. It uplifts. It leaves you wanting more. It’s not a summer at the beach book that passes the time. It is something that stays with you when you go to bed that night and for weeks thereafter. I hope people will learn something in a subtle way as they read my books. In DEVOLUTION, while they are enjoying the exploits of Chiku Flynn, I hope they will learn something about chimpanzees and about the rainforest and the Congo. My novels should stir debate and start conversations going and they should make the reader feel good. I hate unhappy endings.
What does it truly mean to be ‘Human’?
Chiku Flynn wasn’t raised to be human. Born in the Congolese rainforest, she spends her first eleven years as part of an experiment. For her, the aboriginal—the primitive—is ‘normal.’
Just after her eleventh birthday, Chiku witnesses the horrifying death of her mother, and her father sends her ‘home’ to the United States, to a normal teenager’s life. But she can’t adapt. She is the proverbial wild child—obstinate and defiant.
When her father disappears, sixteen-year-old Chiku heads back to the primordial jungle, where she uncovers her own dark past and puts to use her greatest skill: she can communicate via sign language with the wild chimpanzees of Chimp Island.
But there is turmoil in the rainforest—civil war, environmental upheaval…and murder. The lives of the chimps and the safety of the people she loves depend upon one teenaged girl who refuses to be messed with—Chiku Flynn.
“Peter Clenott’s story of a troubled teen searching for her father in the African jungle skillfully combines the breakneck pace of a thriller with the emotional tug of a coming of age novel while providing a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between people and chimpanzees that will leave readers questioning which species is more humane. A thought-provoking read.” —Tasha Alexander, New York Times bestselling author of Behind the Shattered Glass
“Devolution is an enthralling, action-packed and fast-paced jungle thriller from beginning to end. The story is set in modern day Africa and is centered on the book’s heroine, Chiku, a firecracker of a girl full of energy and spirit. She can also talk to chimpanzees! The backdrops to the story are as old as time itself—war, racism, hunger and greed. Can a strong-willed sixteen-year-old girl and a band of chimpanzees survive in war-torn Africa? Or will death find its way into this strange yet wonderful family! This book is an interesting coming of age tale full of intrigue, wonder, romance and danger. A truly exciting and original read! This is not your grandparent’s Tarzan tale!” —Christopher P. Obert, founder of the New England Authors Expo
“If it takes a bipolar teenager and some chimpanzees to save their piece of the Congo, then Chiku and her primate friends are the ones to do it. Label them superheroes. Peter Clenott has captured diverse characters in a vibrant setting and added snappy dialogue for this unique and interesting novel.” —Shirley Ann Howard, author of the Tales series
Genre - Young Adult
Rating – PG