Marc Lowe Interviews Debra Di Blasi CB Smith BIO Peter Burstin BIO
An Interview with Peter Burstin

By C.B. Smith

CBS: The reader has now gained instant awareness of you with the publication of your novel, The J Affect. And with this newfound awareness the pressing question: Who are you and why do you write?

PB: Who am I? Just an old soul living in New York grumbling over real estate prices right now. Why write? It started to get out of homework in middle school. Wrote a short story, poem, whatever and had a nurturing (or empathetic) teacher.

Now, I think I write because I’m a babbler with way too much more to say than my brain can handle. I freak those close with enough banter and writing helps me give them a break every once in a while. I also find the act of wrapping my brain around something hopefully unique, excruciatingly seductive.

CBS: Why did you decide to make Jesus just one of four spiritually powerful prophets in The J Affect instead of THE son of God as so expounded in sovereign Christian dogma?

PB: He fit my story better that way.

I think the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad-Gita, and all the books of faith out there, have wonderful lessons which reflect our history. Jesus taught nothing but peace and tolerance. When you put humans into the equation, you get a selfish misinterpretation and misrepresentations leading to wars, land disputes, jingoism, crusades, and all the rest of the hogwash that keeps us from the real issues we face as a species. Reinterpreting Jesus to suit my purposes was simply a way to say: “Faith, good. Blind faith, bad.” We’re all suffering from severe mental disorders if we truly think we’re the only ones who’ve got it right. My thinking is that Jesus was a rebel who spoke out about what he felt to be right. He was willing to die for his principals, and that is heroic.

CBS: I agree entirely with that. A case of too many chefs spoil the soup. In line with that, whom do you consider your mentors, heroes, if any?

PB: My personal mentor was a man named Luc Cannon. He was an artist/photographer/man-of-mystery from Belgium. We had a long correspondence until he died. My heroes are too numerous to mention. They are all those who did what they could to keep folks thinking. From rebels to leaders to dreamers to any who kept their eyes open and did whatever they could to pass that open-minded thinking to the next generation.

CBS: Was there any specific circumstance or event that steered you toward the subject matter of this title, or did it just spring from the forehead of Zeus?

PB: Funny question. I’m no Athena. I had an idea of doing a piece that took our systems of belief and twisted them on their head. One day, while minding my own business, the idea smacked me in the face and I started to jot it down. A year or so later, I had the first manuscript.

The book has gone through the ringer after that first manuscript. I had a larger publisher (to remain unnamed) who wanted the book originally. The finished manuscript was sent in on 9/10/01. On page 17, I spoke about terrorism hitting NYC in two years. Two weeks later, when the dust in New York had relatively settled, I realized that there was no way they would publish it now and the deal was dead in the water. I decided to begin a book that was 400 years in the future and everyone was dead. I soon realized that all the research I was doing was actually meant to repair J. I got back to it and a year later, the book you see before you was the result.

Hemingway said that finishing a novel was like taking your child out back and shooting him in the head. I had to bring my child back to life, after terrorists blew him to pieces, so I could shoot him in the head myself.

The new book I just finished is a complete departure from that. I wanted brain to paper without research. So I wrote a would-be tribute to the Beats which I’m now about to start shopping.

CBS: What kind of writing schedule do you keep?

PB: A really bad one. I am truly atrocious about it. I go in sprits. Sometimes nothing. Sometimes something hits me I can go for days. I highly recommend against this practice; it only leads to annoyed editors, ass pain, and no drug trips you harder than staying up for days on end. Luckily I have a gracious editor and don’t do those kinds of drugs anymore. Don’t know what to do about the ass pain.

CBS: Well, we can wrap this up quite succinctly with one final volley: What’s next in the literary world of Peter Burstin, beside the would-be tribute to the Beats if anything? Any books you’re optioning for movies on the agenda?

PB: I started writing something just before a recent move. It’s fun and complex like I like it. May take a while to complete but I’m getting back to it shortly.

No options yet, but I have a history in film. Theatre is what really got my juices flowing when I was a kid. That led to film. That led to hermitation writing and photography. Presently, I am doctoring a few scripts and reworking one of my own for a film I hope to do in the next few years. I love the medium.

Peter BurstinPeter Burstin After fleeing home at the age of 12 due to fears of Middle America, Peter Burstin sauntered about the planet, ending up in New York City. Shortly after arriving in New York, at the age of 17, he had his U.S. publishing debut with the publication of his poems by Free Illinois Press. Burstin has not stopped writing since. Having written a few plays for the theatre, he then turned to film. He didn’t care for the film industry, and was left feeling befuddled. So he sat alone behind his Mac, typing away.
Read C.B. Smith's Review of Peter Burstin's book The J Affect.
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last update: November 19, 2008