Posts Tagged ‘Peter Leavell’




Dear God. I hate work. Amen.


But I noticed when reading through the Bible that God gave us work before we ate of the tree of good and evil. I was sure work was part of the fall.


Drat. rem: LOL


Watching me at work as a part time property manager looks like this—He flies from desk to desk, three screens of work buzzing while he’s talking to the entire line of customers. The look of panic on his face is only less entertaining than the twitch in one eye.


Watching me write—He’s sits reclined, unmoving. He hasn’t blinked for ten minutes now. Look, his chest moved, so he’s still breathing. Is that an IV? Is that COFFEE dripping into his arteries? Goodness, he looks so happy. So peaceful.


The first is my job. I’m a property manager to get my wife and kids through university.


The second is my vocation. My calling. It makes money. But not enough to support a growing family.


I like to think writing is my glorified task—the one given to me before our fall from God. Of course, property management, then, is simply of the devil.


Characters in books are no different. Every person hunts for money or manages money, from the beggar on the street to the middleclass mom to the Queen of Egypt. If they don’t work, they don’t eat. Even a lazy person has to work someone over to get what they need to survive. Like Huckleberry Finn, getting out of work can be more work than work.


But must a character in a book have a job and a vocation? Using the two, we can create tension in a novel.


We have characters like Hercule Poirot who is the world’s leading detective (a title up for grabs with the likes of Sherlock Holmes, no doubt), who is able to focus solely on detective work without needing a part time job. Frankly, if Poirot needed to work in clothing retail, we’d be concerned about his little grey cells (although his attention to details would be either genius or maddening).


 Animal Farm is a plotline divided by careers—menial tasks by the animals against the management by the pigs, and while all the animals in the story were equal, some were more equal than others. But reading, you get the sense each character wanted something just a bit more than the task they were doing—as if made for more than just their job. They wanted a calling, a vocation.


The idle rich manage money and support staff. Boredom takes them on wild adventures, like Phileas Fogg and his most adorable servant, Passepartout, in Around the World in Eighty Days. It’s not enough for them to simply enjoy their money. They’ve a vocation. Prove something. Prove themselves.


The rich dowager in every historical mystery and drama ever written can’t just manage and enjoy the money. No. Their vocation is to make sure every person who comes in contact with her is miserable and controlled. Her vocation gives her no end of pleasure.


Sometimes a character like Fyodor Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov is drinking his life away, he’s avoiding his vocation. In this case, to be a good father.


Someone like June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver is locked in domestic bliss. Mmhmm. Her job is to make sure her boys (including her husband) survive and have a good time. Does she want to continue her role as wife and mother in an oppressive society? Does she have a vocation calling her? Or is raising her children the height of all that is good in the world? What will she do when they leave? The tension is palpable.


Very few men and women chose war as a vocation. War, however, is a job taking many from what they really want. Families. Hometowns. Life. War and other struggles offer stunning character arcs, a dynamic only understood if readers know what the character is giving up, what the character’s vocation really is. If they don’t have a calling, then war will seem their calling, which I must admit is kind of unsettling.


War isn’t the only horror that draws people from their vocation. It could be a repressive father, or self-doubt, perhaps a cult controls a person. Abused children or adults. Lack of knowledge that there’s anything better can be frustrating, such as saying yes to his proposal because there’s no reason to turn him down.


The vocation of Dr. David Hunter in my latest middle grade reader, Dino Hunters, is a biologist, but his true calling is archeology. He’s pulled into the world of hunting dinosaur bones with his niece and nephew.

Keep in mind as you write the differences between job and vocation, and you will find yourself with added tension. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll help others understand their calling. Isn’t that your calling?


Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips.








#Blogwords, New Week New Fact, #NWNF, Guest Post, Peter Leavell


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“One verse penetrated the deepest part of his soul. Hebrews 13:5. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


“Peter Leavell’s love of history began in bed. Reading late into the night, he devoured the past. In the fourth grade, his teacher told stories of settlers and Indians. Oh, how he hated the recess bell!”



rem:  Hello, Peter, welcome to my little nest. Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

PETER:  I was raised in a small town in South Dakota where, as a pastor’s kid, I did what I could to cause a reasonable amount of trouble. We moved to Walla Walla Washington when I started high school, which is about the most fun town name to say, ever. I tried college in Iowa, tried business in Colorado, and finished my university degree in Boise, Idaho, and decided to raise the family in Boise. Here I stay.

rem:  My cousin lives somewhere (Orem) near there, in Idaho at least… Tell us three things about yourself.

PETER:  As much as I try, I don’t like oatmeal for breakfast. Even worse, putting raisins in oatmeal cookies. Who thought of such a thing? I’m off the charts (clinical studies) in two areas—introverted and imagination. I’ve learned to gain mastery over both. I’m a baseball junkie. Love the sport. To me, it’s perfect.


rem:  Have I got the recipe for you—oatmeal pancakes with apple butter! Oh, n I might match you on imagination….. Cookout—steaks or burgers?

PETER:  Steaks. Medium rare.

rem:  Perfect! Beer in a bottle or a can?

PETER:  *Reaches past the beer and takes the glass of wine. Checks viscosity. Sniffs. Hmmm. Takes a sip. Yep, it’s red.

rem:  Me, gimme a nice Chardonnay. What’s your all-time favorite movie? Favorite TV show?

PETER:  Favorite TV show is Get Smart. I can quote everything 86 said. All of it. Favorite movie, Casablanca.

rem:  I loved that show! The shoe phone! All the secret doors! Do you have a favorite Bible verse? And why is it a favorite?

PETER:  Gen 1:1a. In the beginning, God….  What a beautiful way to start The Book.

rem:  He is always and ever… If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?

PETER:  Condoleezza Rice, to talk political theory. Oh, yeah. Good times.


rem:  Seems like a good choice for an introvert… What do you think is significant about Christian fiction?  How has being a novelist impacted your relationship with Christ?

PETER:  Christian Fiction’s significance has been the drawing out of Christian writers from the general market and created a place for readers to find safe, clean reading material. It’s debated whether that’s good or not for writers and readers and the general fiction market, but the main significance is that a block has been created where Christian writers and readers can hang out together and eat BBQ and discuss writing. Just rubbing shoulders with profound Christian writers has moved me greatly toward Christ.

rem:  I want BBQ… And yes, Kristen Heitzmann (among so many) comes to mind, addressing issues that people face, believers and non-believers, and weaving her magic around that into a story with deep impact. When reading, what makes or breaks a story for you? Your fiction pet peeve?

PETER:  Bad history makes me chuck a book across the room.  But I love breaking apart a character, finding out what makes them tick. Without character development, I have a hard time getting into the plot.

rem:  Good thing I’m OCD about my research, historical and otherwise… Insert anecdote—once upon a time when I was writing my own story a la saga, I was describing my mother’s childhood. She was playing with her Barbies and baby dolls—SCREECHING HALT. She didn’t have Barbies. There were no Barbies in the 1940’s. There was no Barbie til the year I was born, 1959! Which is more important: plot or characters?

PETER:  For me, plot, despite the previous question, because first we must have a relatable action, then a relatable character. Our imagination must be triggered by the world the character lives in and what they’re doing before we can like or hate them.

rem:  True, we might love Sam and Ethel but if all they’re doing is sitting on the front porch watching the world go by, not much reason to read. What would you do if you weren’t writing?

PETER:  I’ve no idea. I’ve been writing since kindergarten on my coloring sheets and never looked back.

rem:  I know your fans are glad to hear that. What are you reading right now?

PETER:  ‘Road to Character’ by David Brooks, Aristotle’s Poetics, and almost done with everything CS Lewis ever wrote.

rem:  What do you munch on while you write?

PETER:  Trail mix!


rem:  But, um, doesn’t trail mix have (ahem) oats in it? jus’ sayin’

“One day he ran fifteen miles. The next, he could barely make three. And a week after that, he lay in bed without the energy to get up. His muscles shriveled.” Tell us about that horrifying experience.

PETER:  I stopped making testosterone, but before we had the diagnosis, we thought I had cancer in the final stages. I learned through the trials that my journey wasn’t to be published, or to be great for God, but simply to grow closer to Him. The rest of life? Details. I took treatments and got back on my feet. A few years later, my younger brother was weak, couldn’t get out of bed, and it was cancer. When he died, it once again confirmed life is about loving God, discovering His wonders, and living every moment with grateful hearts for all He’s done and given us. When we have no strength, how can we still have joy? Only in Christ.

rem:  Peter, I’m so sorry about your brother. Such a tragedy. You’re so right, only in Christ. What’s the most unusual or unexpected historical factoid you’ve discovered?

PETER:  George Washington was freakishly strong. He broke walnuts with his thumb and pointing finger!

rem:  I’m duly impressed. How much of your Biblical Studies and/or Biblical Archeology do you toss in when you’re writing?

PETER:  As much as I possibly can! Then the editors make me take it out. I’ve a few manuscripts on the burner that are using them full force!

rem:  Love this answer. And boo to editors! Have you ever considered writing Biblical fiction?

PETER:  Yes! I’m working with another author on the minor prophets. Wayyyy more fun than I thought it would be.

rem:  Yayyyy…. (It’s my fav-fav genre.) Tell us a little about your writing journey.

PETER:  I wrote newsletters for fun as a kid. My math grade hovered around a ‘C’ and I aced all writing assignments. When I was 25, I told my wife I was going to write a book, then discovered fiction was a bear that needed taming. I went to university, grabbed a history degree and studied English Lit, then studied craft. And more craft. Ten years of writing, rewriting, hiring editors, I finally sat down to write my historical fiction, which won a contest that offered $20,000 and a publishing contract! When you can attach ‘Award Winning Author’ to your business card, lots of opportunities open. Now, it’s learning how to work with those opportunities!

rem:  I have visions of a bear with a ruffled collar, you standing before him with a whip and some trail mix… What is your Writing Routine? Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?

Peter: Since I work part time and am dedicated to deep, personal study and am raising a family and sending my wife to university, I read and write whenever, wherever I get the chance. On the couch. At my desk. By the side of the road. While the kids are getting ready for this or that. Laptops and iPhone for the win!

rem:  Yes to that! What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?

PETER:  My day job is my struggle. As a landlord, I’m locked at a desk. When there’s no people around, I get to read. But people are bored and want to chat with a ‘famous’ author (I was writer of the year in my town last year), so they come in and just watch me read and write. It’s bizarre. So, finding time, and people wasting my time, is my biggest mental struggle. I get frustrated too easily.

rem:  Finding time for me too, albeit for very different reasons. Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?

PETER:  I love everything about writing. From creating, researching, and editing, to marketing. Every every every bit. Love it.

rem:  Yes to all of the above—marketing is even growing on me, ‘specially this blog gig. What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

PETER:  I enjoy reading. Odd, huh. But instead of reading some unknown author’s books, I’m reading colleague’s books. Heady stuff.

rem:  Heady indeed! My best friend pointed that out to me not long ago. What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?

PETER:  The hardest part is for me is the author is a business and must move forward with business decisions. I have no clue what’s wise or silly. So, I get advice. The easiest is finding friends and likeminded folks at writer’s conferences. We’re a team, all looking out for each other!

rem:  The networking and camaraderie are invaluable! What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer? What 3 things would recommend not doing?

PETER:  Read the masters. Read how to write books. Read what’s selling on the market right now. Read, read, read. Then write. Then edit. See projects through, even if you don’t publish. So the three to-dos…read, write, and finish projects. Don’t panic. Don’t expect any part of the writing process to happen fast. And don’t admit to anyone you write in the bathroom.

rem:  Nope, nothing fast about it. How do you choose your characters’ names?

PETER:  I discover the character’s personality, look into the meanings of names, and try and work in meanings and depth. For me, names are vital. In one of my novels, West for the Black Hills, Anna goes through the process I go through when searching for name meanings.

rem:  I liken it to meeting a new friend, “Hello my name is ___. Please tell me story for me.” Do you think of the entire story before you start writing?

PETER:  I wrestle with ‘how am I going to tell this character’s story?’ I grind it, thinking though entire scenarios in seconds (remember, my imagination is off the charts). Then, suddenly, boom. One is right from beginning to end. I change this and that inside the parameters of the original thoughts, but keep to the overall idea.

rem:  I totally get this! Tell us a little about your latest book? What is your current project?

PETER:  My latest is smack dab in the center of a trilogy! We’re discovering Philip Anderson’s story as he’s battling the evil Jacob Wilkes in the old west. Will Philip and Anna finally find peace? I’m working book three while editing a few other manuscripts I’ve written.

rem:  What is YOUR favorite part about the book or why do you love this book? Why should we read it?

PETER:  I love the moral search in stopping evil. How far would you go to save someone? Is love worth fighting for? Justice vs revenge. If you’re looking for a rip-roaring western, this one’s for you. As a side note, Romantic Times gave it raving reviews, too. Every book should be one part action, one part romance, two parts character development, and three parts humor.

rem:  Isn’t that a basic element or premise in all Christian fiction? Tell us about why you wrote this book.

PETER:  I believe we’re struggling to find a balance between standing up for what’s right and just yelling and fighting to be noticed. There are times when we must fight, and times when quiet enjoyment of life is the aim. I’m looking to uncover how to balance both.

rem:  And sometimes the fight IS quiet. Please give us the first page of the book.

PETER:  Argh! It’s in the publisher’s hands. I don’t have access to an e-copy.

rem:  Well darn. What is one take-away from your book(s) that you hope readers identify with?

PETER: Love is worth fighting for.

rem:  Yes, yes it is. Where can we find you online?







rem:  Anything you’d like to add?

PETER:  Keep reading! Be the best God made you to be!

rem:  I think I will, thanks! Peter, thank you so much for chatting with us at my little nest today!


BONUS: Recipe











“Every night, I sleep with someone different. John Adams. Earnest Hemingway. Napoleon Bonaparte. A pharaoh, king, or queen. I never know who my husband’s bringing to bed with us.



#Blogwords, Chat Thursday, Author Interview, Manly Man Interview Blitz, Peter Leavell, Shadow of Devil’s Tower, God & Gun, West for the Black Hills, Gideon’s Call, Passageways, Oatmeal Pancakes



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