Pete Hautman is an American writer best known for his work in the YA genre. He is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books, including Slider, Blank Confession, Invisible, Rash, No Limit, and Mr. Was. He wrote his first book when he was nine, an autobiography. A decade later, he wrote and illustrated a couple of underground comics which are now very rare, and according to him—very embarrassing! He finally got around to writing his first novel, Drawing Dead at thirty-eight years old. He is especially fond of the 1940s big band music and hip hop, mostly 90s rap — NWA, Dre, Snoop Dogg, and the likes.
Many of your novels deal with the teenagers, their problems, relationships, and affections. To what extent were you able to relate to the protagonists of your stories?
Completely! All of my main characters are imagined versions of myself. And so are the bad guys. First, the books for younger children, the nonfiction books, are more like journalism than they are like novel writing. As far as fiction is concerned, I write like most novelists, I think, from a particular character’s point of view. Where most of my characters are based on people I know, some of my characters come out of dreams. A novelist is like an actor—one person can inhabit a universe of different characters.
Your stellar work in Otherwood earned you critical acclaim. Why do you think that is?
Otherwood won the Edgar Allen Poe Award in the category of Best Juvenile Mystery Fiction in 2019 and was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award, which is great! I think people like the book because it is mysterious and surprising and different from any other book out there.
The Klaatu Diskos Series has been described as your most daring work, a surprising yet cogent and satisfying chronicle. What was the motivation behind dabbling in the sci-fi genre?
I like reading time travel and science fiction novels, and I always wanted to write one. That is precisely how the Klaatu Diskos Series came to be! Also, I really enjoy imagining what the future might bring—the crazier the better. I did a lot of research into topics ranging from nuclear submarines to autism, to the physical configuration of the World Trade Center viewing deck. Because the books take place in a variety of geo-temporal locations, it seemed as if every day I had to learn something new to keep writing. I love to research. There is so much to know. After all, imagine how crazy computers and space stations would seem to someone from the 1800s!
Do you notice a contrast in the perspectives and ideologies of upcoming writers?
Not really. Writers today are pretty much the same as they were thirty years ago when I started publishing. Except now their characters have cell phones.
What tips do you have for overcoming a writer’s block? Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym?
My main strategy for writer’s block is this: When I get stuck, I set the project aside and work on something else. I let my brain relax, and don’t beat myself up for being stuck. Eventually, I’ll get back to the story. I have written many nonfiction books for younger kids under the pseudonym Peter Murray. Most of them are now out-of-print.