This month, Mike Price interviews Charlie Perryess. Meet your fellow SLO NightWriter!
Who are you?
I’m CS Perryess, also known as Chet, Chester, and Charlie. I mostly write young adult stories, though I occasionally dabble in middle grade and adult. I’ve had great success with short stories and articles making their way into magazines and anthologies, but thus far, my novel-length manuscripts are homeless. I spend a lot of my time writing, editing, reading, and narrating audiobooks.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Greatest? That’s an unfair question! Muz, my amazing mom comes to mind. Ellen, my wonderful wife, inspires, as does my uncle Ron. In the literary world: Bradbury, Green, Plum-Ucci, Renault, Trueman, Levithan, LaFevers, Chaltas…and on to infinity.
Do you have a blog?
I do. It’s called Wordmonger (csperryess.blogspot.com). It’s my weekly opportunity to indulge myself in the wondersof language. Each brief post considers an etymology, a collection of related words, maybe anagrams or funky spellings, or whatever language-related topic tickles my fancy.
What is your favorite book, movie, or play?
My favorite book changes as I change. Most recently, David Levithan’s Every Day has made it to the top of my list. I think it’s the perfect allegory for adolescence. Before that it was Carol Plum-Ucci’s What Happened to Lani Garver, which not only pulled on my heartstrings, but inspiredone of my eighth graders to say, “This book changed the way Isee the world.” What more can an author ask?
What genre do you like to write?
I say I write YA, but to be truthful, I tend to write in the non-existent space between middle grade and young adult. My stuff is regularly labeled “too gentle” for the teen audience, but it tends to address themes and concepts that most 4-6th graders aren’t quite ready for.
Tell us about your favorite story/article/essay that you have written.
My favorite is probably the one I’m most engaged in at the moment (the subject of the next question), but a manuscript that won some awards without ever being published is Wayne’s Last Fit, the story of Grady, a freshman who has to caretake for his disabled senior brother, which involves an embarrassing new-age metaphysical treatment method. Other embarrassments in his life include working with his nutty self-styled gypsy mom, trying to keep his passion for playing the squeezebox a secret from his peers, and navigating his first romance.
Tell us about your latest project.
I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel about a kid who lives in a cenotaph (a crypt built to memorialize someone whose body is elsewhere). He’s been abandoned by a flaky mom and ends up finding his niche in the world through an unlikely group of misfit pals and a lovely and temporary art form called Land Art.
Do you have a day job?
I’m pleased to say that after 34 years of teaching (mostly middle school, and a great gig), thanks to a decent retirement system, I am now officially without a full time day job.
How does your family support you in your writing?
My loving wife Ellen puts up with all the time I spend in literary pursuits, she encourages me when I decide there’s some retreat or workshop I need to attend, and is an endless source of wacky “Hey-you should-write-a-book-about-X” ideas (though I must admit to ignoring her ideas because I have more ideas in my head than I can address in a lifetime).
How does NightWriters help you?
My critique group is a religion. I’d be surprised if I’ve missed more than three meetings in the last 15 years. Sidonie, Christine, Anne, Steve, Lorie and countless other great folks over the years are the reason I keep writing.
How do you handle rejection letters?
I feel very fortunate to have submitted short works first. By the time I was putting two years of my life on the line in a submission, I had become pretty thick skinned. I handle rejection letters by figuring out who to send it to next.
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I spent a year living remotely, milking goats, re-assembling ancient chainsaws, and using them (and I still have all my appendages).
Besides writing, what are your other hobbies?
If I can get somewhere on my bike instead of by car, I do. I also enjoy baking, playing guitar and bass, hanging out with my wife and all the dogs she saves, and trying to keep our little house from falling down around our ears.