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Author Spotlight: Peter E. Fenton

Peter E. Fenton

Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.

Today: Peter E. Fenton’s first book, The Woodcarver’s Model came out in April of 2022 and was a four time nominee in the Goodreads M/M Romance Readers’ Choice Awards.

His latest book Mann Hunt was released in August of 2023 and was also a nominee in the Goodreads M/M Romance Readers’ Choice Awards. Mann Hunt is the first in the three part Declan Hunt Mysteries series, with Hoodoo House, the next book in the series, being released in June of 2024. The final installment in the series will come out in the summer of 2025, (all through Pride Publishing).

2024 will also see the release of his first teen romance novel Not Not Normal with Lorimer Publishing.

All of his novels are proudly set in Canada and are filled with humour, heart and unforgettable characters.

Previous creative work was focused on writing for the stage, including award-winning productions of The Giant’s Garden, Newfoundland Mary, and Bemused which have played across Canada. His newest play, The Detective Disappears just finished a six week tour throughout Canada.

Peter spent many years working in palaeontology in remote locations including the Canadian Rockies, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada with his partner of more than twenty years.

Thanks so much, Peter, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

Peter E. Fenton: I do not use a pseudonym. I have spent years writing plays and books for musicals, and I have built up a bit of a following. When I shifted to MM Romance I wanted to take those people who have been following my career along with me. I was proud of the novels I was creating, so why change my name and start from scratch? By June of this year I will have three MM romance novels out. And in the fall I will be releasing my first YA novel. I want to let those readers know that my range of work includes gay detective thrillers, gay youth romances as well as a family musical inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant.

JSC: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

PEF: There are three key things I would tell myself.

1) Read everything you can and if you find an author you like, read whatever they’ve written. 

2) Don’t be afraid to put your work out there. Some people will like it, others will not. Both will comment on it (if you’re lucky). If you are stung by a bad review, you can ease the pain by looking up the one star reviews for a book you have loved. For instance, I loved Emma Donoghue’s Pull Of The Stars and was surprised that it had one star reviews. And then I read those reviews, and some of them gave it one star because it was a novel with a love story between two women. That sort of put things into context. There is comfort in knowing that every author, no matter how famous, has good and bad reviews. Reviews are subjective, and sometimes … ridiculous. So if you get a good review, celebrate! And if you get a bad review, you are in the company of some of the greatest writers of all time.

3) Your editor is your best friend, even if they ask you to change your favourite line in your book. A good editor wants you to become a better writer. Learn from each and every comment they make. Ultimately you DO have the final say, but carefully consider what they are offering. It has immense value.

JSC: How long do you write each day?

PEF: During the first draft phase of creation I write each morning for a few hours. After that, my mind gets tired. I do like to get 1500 to 2000 words down. For the rest of the day I jot down notes, do research, go for walks (that is when my brain is most creative), and try to balance life with my partner. This schedule is helped a great deal thanks to the fact that I am now retired from my full time job. On average I spend about a year on each book, including “thinking time” and editing.

JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

PEF: Panster, definitely. I like my stories to grow organically. At least that’s what I tell myself. In truth, I am just too poorly organized to plot the books out. I find it far too difficult to plot everything out in advance. I have tried spreadsheets, index cards, post-it notes. All have failed me. There are just too many points to consider. I keep getting lost.

I know where I want the books to start (definitely) and where to end (sort of). In between, I just love to go on the ride and let the characters drive the bus. Sometimes it takes me far down the wrong road. My partner is my first reader, and after going through my last book, Mann Hunt, he said, “I think you have the wrong killer.” We discussed this thought at GREAT length. Ultimately he was right. I had turned right at a plot intersection instead of left. When I went the other direction, the view was far more interesting.

JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?

PEF: This is not as simple a question as it may seem. With my first MM romance, The Woodcarver’s Model, I had an idea of taking a character and throwing him into a world that was different than he was used to. I decided to base the protagonist Rob Hanson, in part, on my experiences. I have spent many years working in palaeontology in remote parts of the country, far away from civilization, being prepared to handle whatever nature threw at me. In Rob Hanson’s case, I decided the character would be an adventure travel writer and a loner, from a large urban centre. Next I had to decide what kind of environment to throw him into. This evolved into the small, close-knit community on the imaginary locale, Marsh Island. The plot and the assorted characters which inhabit the book grew from there.

With Mann Hunt, the first book in the Declan Hunt Mysteries series, the creation followed the same path. I started with the protagonist and worked out from there. The second book in the series, Hoodoo House, followed a different origin. The main characters already existed so I had to start with creating a new challenge for them to encounter so “plot” or “ideas” drove the bus with this book. I always find it fun to devise different twists and environments to toss my leads into.

JSC: What’s your writer cave like?

PEF: My partner and I share a space in our apartment. He and I both create. Scott is a composer/playwright, as well as the kind soul who handles my social media and works with my publishers on marketing my work. We have a room with two desks, a piano and a keyboard. This is very handy when we are working on a project together. We’re only an arm’s reach away from each other. The walls are covered in the posters of the theatre projects we have worked on since we met in 2001 and posters of my recent books. It acts as inspiration to keep writing.

JSC: What book is currently on your bedside table?

PEF: Book? I’m only supposed to have one? I currently have Badly Served, by Ripley Hayes (loving it!), Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, Love is All (a charity romance anthology given to me by the wickedly amazing Xio Axelrod) and two issues of The London Magazine. Eclectic, huh?

JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write, and why?

PEF: In Hoodoo House it would have to be Henry, the 13-year-old resident of the house. He is driven by his imagination. I was telling someone the other day that if the character of Jordan from my upcoming youth novel Not Not Normal was me, Henry in Hoodoo House is the kid I would have liked to be.

JSC: Let’s talk to your characters for a minute – what’s it like to work for such a demanding writer?

PEF: Demanding? That guy? He’s a sucker. He lets us get away with pretty well anything we want. We basically steer the ship and tell him what to write. We should actually be getting more of the credit for writing the book than him. We do feel bad sometimes, like when his partner and story editor Scott hauls the writer aside and tells him that apparently we’ve made the story much too complicated. We were offended when the writer told us that he had to chop over 40 000 words out of his first draft of Hoodoo House because we all wanted our own detailed plot line and the book was getting too complex. Then the writer even … eliminated one character. Thank goodness it wasn’t any of us. His name was Tyler Chipping. But he’s gone now, and we shouldn’t speak for him, although there’s a rumour that Peter is using him and a bit of his plot in the next book.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

PEF: I’m starting work on the third Declan Hunt Mysteries book. This is intended to be the last in the series (but you never know). Unlike some series in which the different books may only have a locale in common, in the Declan Hunt Mysteries trilogy we follow the evolution of the personal and working relationships between the detective, Declan Hunt, and his assistant, Charlie Watts. The series is essentially three sections of one longer story.

In addition to the detective series I am working on final edits for my YA gay romance, Not Not Normal. It’s coming out this fall. This one is particularly important to me because the protagonist, Jordan, is, in many ways me when I was in high school. The writing of the novella was inspired, in part, by an event that happened in 2017 when my partner and I were in Calgary, Alberta. One day, out of the blue, were were approached on the street by a teenager. He was 15 or 16 years old. He wanted to know if we were a couple. He proceeded to open up about being gay and having no one to talk to. The courage he exhibited, first by approaching two strangers and then confessing his deepest secret, has changed me forever. I was sad that in a city the size of Calgary, he couldn’t confide in a teacher, or school counselor or friend. He felt isolated and “not normal.” This novel will be distributed through Lorimer Publishing in schools throughout Canada and the U.S. and I hope that it will help young people find the strength to become the person they want to be, through normalizing their experience with being gay in high school.

Hoodoo House - Peter E. Fenton

And now for Peter’s new book: Hoodoo House:

Book two in the Declan Hunt Mysteries series.

How far would you be willing to go to keep a secret?

When writer Malcolm Tull is discovered dead at his writing desk, all signs point to suicide. But Malcolm’s editor isn’t so sure. There’s the matter of the man’s missing computer, a mislaid manuscript and the fact that he didn’t seem the type to take his own life.

Declan Hunt and Charlie Watts are called into action and make their way to the mysterious Hoodoo House nestled on the edge of the Badlands of Alberta. Soon they are embroiled in a case involving blackmail, gay tricks and possibly even murder.

As the secrets of Hoodoo House come to light, Charlie discovers that his boss has been keeping a few secrets of his own, secrets that could impact their romantic relationship outside of the office. And before this investigation is done, Charlie will have to get to the truth, even if it means this might be his final case for Declan Hunt Investigations.

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Mrs Cameron stood at the kitchen sink, considering the dishes created by her morning baking. She stared at the boarded-up kitchen window, the result of a strong dust devil that had hit the north side of the house and torn off a section of the roof a week ago. A sheet of plywood shielded the glass from the repair work above on the decaying one-hundred-and five-year-old wood-framed house.

With the light from the outside cut off, the windowpane became a dim mirror reflecting the activity and inhabitants of the kitchen. Mrs Cameron looked at her reflection and saw a woman with a jowly countenance and hair that had gone completely white. She hadn’t turned full-on apple doll yet, but it was inevitable—unless, of course, death took her first.

When did you become so old?

Her thoughts were interrupted.

“What’s this symbol called?” Henry asked, holding up a piece of paper and pointing to an indiscernible character. He was surrounded by the remains of his math homework spread all over the table.

“Well, you’re gonna have to bring it here. My eyes aren’t telescopes.”

Henry scooted the chair back, brought her the paper and held it up to her milky blue eyes. She pulled her reading glasses out of the pocket of her apron and held them in front of her, like a jeweller would hold their loupe while examining a rare gem.

“It’s a pi,” she said.

“I like pie,” he said with a smile.

She raised an eyebrow. “Now how long have you been waiting to tell that joke?”

“It’s not so much a joke as witty wordplay,” he said, heading back to his chair.

This from a thirteen-year-old, she thought, shaking her head. Henry often seemed wiser than a boy of his age. Although he was only her ward, she thought of him as the child she’d never had and due to their age difference, he had taken to calling her Gramma Carol.

She patted him on the shoulder. “Now, clear up your mess and set the table. Then you can go and tell Mr Tull breakfast is ready.”

Henry quickly did as he was told.

Mrs Cameron smiled as she looked around. The kitchen was her domain and nobody in Hoodoo House would dare to question anything she did here or, frankly, anywhere else on the property. She was the housekeeper, cook, scullery maid and holder of just about every other staff position one could imagine. She was as permanent a fixture in the building as the ancient stove or the kitchen’s large wooden prep table and she loved every scrap of wood and broken-down fixture in it…almost as much as she loved young Henry.

Writer Malcolm Tull, however…

An acrid smell hit her nostrils.


She ran towards the oven. A cloud of smoke filled the air as she pulled out the tray of burnt baking.

“You damned fool,” she muttered to herself as she removed the biscuits and placed them on a cooling rack. She could scrape the char off the best ones and they’d be fine. The others she’d save for crumbling up for the chickens, or perhaps the centres could be used for stuffing. Either way, they would end up inside a chicken.

She checked the coffee perking in the pot and dabbed the fat off the freshly cooked bacon. She turned back towards the kitchen table and was startled to see Henry standing at the door, his eyes wide, his mouth open. It took him a moment to speak.

“There’s something wrong with Mr Tull.”

“Well, what’s wrong?” she asked.

“He’s asleep on his desk and he’s lying in his own sick.”

Mrs Cameron hurried to the writing room. Henry followed. She went to the desk and examined the prone man. She’d been around long enough to know when something wasn’t alive, but to be certain, she checked for a pulse—nothing.

“Henry, leave the room and don’t touch anything. And don’t come back in here.”

She scurried past the boy and headed back to the kitchen where she called the doctor and the police.

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