Interview with Peter DeMarco, author of Background Noise


Publisher: Pangea Press

Publish Date: November 23, 2012

Order From:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Disaffected suburbanite Henry Walker is on a one-man mission to clean up his town. But is he a popular hero or an enemy of the people? BACKGROUND NOISE charts a young man’s descent from dreams of stardom to fantasies of revenge. As Henry immerses himself in his past, memories become guilt, guilt becomes obsession, until violence is the only logical response. 

Author Bio: Peter DeMarco teaches high school English and film in New York City.  He was first published in The New York Times when he wrote about hanging out with his idol, writer Mickey Spillane.  His short story “The Fireman” was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.  He was a recent finalist in the Bartleby Snopes Dialogue contest.  Peter’s stories have appeared on-line in Prime Number Magazine, decomP, Red Lightbulbs, Monkeybicycle, SmokeLong Quarterly, Flashquake, Verbsap, Pindeldyboz, Hippocampus, and Dogzplot.  Peter lives in New Jersey with his wife Charmaine, and two boys.

Author Interview: Q. Please tell us about your current release.

R. Background Noise is a collection of stories involving a character named Henry Walker.  He’s a suburbanite, an orphan who still lives in his parents’ house.  He functions in the moment, with no plans for the future.  The stories move Henry along from the time he’s 13 to his mid-thirties.  He works at Home Depot because the smell reminds him of the plumbing supply store his father once owned.  Then he encounters a bully from his past.  And there’s a moment of violence.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

R. The title comes from a movie set when I did some extra work in my pursuit of an acting career.  The extras were referred to as “background.”  On the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Last Action Hero, I was one of many, many extras in Times Square on a cold winter night.  The assistant director called for “background noise,” which was our cue to begin the cheering that the scene required.  I thought it would make a good title for a book, a kind of metaphor for a person’s life.  I’d always wanted to write a book about a character’s alienation from life in middle class suburbia, so I put the two together.

Q. Can you tell us about the journey that led you to write your book?

R. Like my character Henry, I lost my parents at a young age, and remained in their house until I was 35.  It was difficult to leave.  I had a younger brother and sister and we remained together for many years in the house.  The house became a character.  It had a hold on us.  It divided us at times.  And like Henry, I was also passive about life, and worked some blue collar jobs during, and after, college.  I wanted to write a story about someone who is frozen subconsciously by the deaths of their parents, like I was, and had trouble doing anything but existing on a day to day basis.

Q. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about the book?

R. No, I’m happy.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

R. The hardest part was the discipline to write, and feeling like I had anything to say.  I felt like everything I wanted to say had already been said before, and said better.  I’m very hard on myself.  But then I started to use images and feelings from my past, and build stories around them.  I wrote my first short story in 2004 and sent it out to a contest in a now defunct literary magazine called New York Stories.  I won 2nd prize, $250, and publication in the magazine.  That helped my confidence and I continued to build stories around the Henry character.

Q. Do you have a musical playlist you listen to when writing? If so, what kind of music?

R. My tastes will run all over the place, from Citizen Cope to the Doors, from Neil Young to Chris Cornell.  Or sometimes I just put the pod on shuffle and let anything move me.  Music is very important for my moods.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

R. I love to shop Amazon in the middle of writing.  It helps to inspire me.  I buy film books and movies.  And I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but my writing lacks humor.  It’s very serious, which is ironic, since I tried being a stand-up comic in the nineties.    I want nothing to do with humor in my writing.  But I don’t want to depress them either.  I just want them connecting to my stories on an intimate level.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

R. I’m working on more stories involving the main character, Henry.  I might take him out to California to pursue his dream of being in the movies.

Q. Please tell us your latest news.

R. One of the stories in the novel was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize.  That was unbelievable.  That I could write something that could be recognized like that.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

R. If you’re reading my book, I’m flattered, and if my words can have some kind of effect on you, then I’m truly flattered.

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