Nolan Peterson should be a familiar name to you if you pay attention to national security issues and war. He has been providing some of the best coverage of the war in Ukraine that you will find anywhere. He’s now expanding into fiction. Snow-Blind: And Other Stories is his brand new anthology and The Loftus Party had the chance to ask him a few questions about it.
The Loftus Party: Why did you choose to self-publish SNOW-BLIND: AND OTHER STORIES instead of going through a publisher?
Nolan Peterson: I’m a first-time fiction author, and I’ve written a collection of short stories. Two strikes against me in the mainstream publishing world. Yet, I wholeheartedly believe in the merit of my work and the quality of my writing.
I don’t want to sit around for years with this manuscript collecting dust on my hard drive while I wait for an agent or publisher to give me a shot. I’d rather put my work out there for the world to see, and then move on to my next project.
I have a long list of other book ideas, and two other books that I’ve practically finished. So, I didn’t want to get hung up on trying to get my first book published and not keep writing in the meantime—I want to keep honing my craft and constantly produce more material. Self-publishing is a great tool to present my work publicly, and, hopefully, for people to enjoy my stories.
NP: As a war correspondent and a former Air Force pilot, I have a deep bench of life experiences from which to draw for my fiction. In fiction, I believe, you can sometimes write stories that are more truthful than non-fiction. In them, I can synthesize my own personal experiences with those of all the people I’ve met over the years in war zones and far-off places. My fiction stories, therefore, aren’t limited by my own personal point of view. I can draw on everything I know to tell a powerful story.
It might be a cliché, but Ernest Hemingway was my first inspiration to write fiction. And his work remains my North Star. Over the years, other writers like Jon Krakauer, Cormac McCarthy, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and Ernie Pyle have influenced my prose and storytelling style.
The thing is, my stories are not overtly about war. They often only tangentially talk about the after effects of war, or its themes. For example, I think the mindset of a mountaineer is pretty similar to that of a soldier. And one of my stories speaks about mountaineering. I think readers will enjoy the stories because they speak about themes, to which we can all relate.
I’ve also worked in some twisted endings, which I think you’ll enjoy—and should hopefully leave you thinking about the stories for a long time after you’ve put the book away.
TLP: The military and intelligence communities are becoming increasingly interested in fiction as a way to help leaders think about future technologies, conflicts, and challenges (see the U.S. Army TRADOC’s Mad Scientist Initiative, for instance). As a war correspondent and vet, have you considered writing any speculative fiction that addresses such issues?
NP: Only one of my stories, “Baby Go Boom,” truly touches on speculative fiction related to national security. But, like I said, the majority of my stories aren’t directly about war.
I humanize the experience of going to war in a way that makes the experiences relatable to someone who will never go into combat. Along that line of thinking, I think my stories do something that is critical for a democracy—they help people understand the inner world of the soldier, and the way that wars never really end for those who fight in them.
In the U.S., we’re pretty disconnected from the wars our country is still fighting—even all these years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Still, I think people do truly care. But in the constant chaos of the news cycle it’s hard to find time to just pause, take a deep breath, and try to understand an experience that is so foreign from our day-to-day lives. I hope my book does that. Not to add more dark news or worries or fear to our already saturated lives—but to put the spectrum of my life experiences to use by sharing stories that, I think, sum up all the lessons I’ve learned.
In the end, I want these stories to stay with you, the reader, as if they’re you’re own. If that’s the case, then I’ve succeeded as a writer. And, hopefully, you’ll want to read my next book.