For my fourth spotlight piece, trying to highlight others that inspire, I would like to share my old friend and author, Peter von Harten.
I met Peter way back in high school and we connected with words through our school’s Litmag. As teenagers, we had small town adventures, went to prom together, and encouraged each other to keep writing. College brought us distance, but Facebook has kept us in touch throughout the years. One of the biggest inspirations he’s given me is to continue pursuing the dream (of writing). Peter has always kept writing. And quite a lot. He was the first of my friends to be published (Blue Car Racer, The Orphaned Ones, and The Great Ascension), and has generously given his time and wisdom to others about publishing through Amazon and writing (in general). He lives open-hearted and honest and has never let creativity out of his life.
May he inspire you to find your passion.
L: How did you become a writer?
P: I don’t believe I have ever not been a writer. It’s always been my most favored form of communication, and makes my thoughts and intentions much more clear than when I speak aloud. I think having been raised as an only child might have actually been a big influence, too. I was always shy as a kid, much more so than now, and had a very active imagination with which to entertain myself when I wasn’t hanging out with friends. I’ve also always been a great listener, and I think that that combined with my love of reading and film have really inspired me to start telling the kind of stories I’ve wanted to tell.
L: What are you working on right now?
P: I’m currently working on a series entitled The Cavarice Chronicles, which is a dystopian steampunk series set in the early 1900s in an alternate dimension called Viktorium. The main plot centers around the capital city of Cavarice and involves a lot of political corruption following the exile of Viktorium’s founder, Charles DuPont. One by one, young heroes emerge and intersect from the most unlikely of places, as do the villains. I also have a parallel series in the works entitled Heirs of Viktorium, which centers around the son and daughter of Charles DuPont, and how they come to discover the world of Viktorium for themselves; however, they are not treated kindly upon their arrival! Both series will intersect at some point.
Some of my heaviest influences in crafting Viktorium have been the 2016 election year and sociopolitical climate, the 1927 silent film Metropolis, big band music from the 1930s and 40s, H.P. Lovecraft stories, artwork from the game Bioshock, and just reading about the steampunk genre in general on various websites.
L: What’s something we should all know about you?
P: I’m a very caring person with a big heart who strives to understand and connect with the world around me, and I feel I do that best through fiction and my many creative endeavors. Thus far, I have designed book covers both for myself and other indie authors, artwork for my aforementioned Viktorium series, composed electronic music in various EDM genres as well as ambient pieces for an independent film (Ivan Noel’s The Tutor ), and written two novels, currently finishing up my third.
That’s not to say any of it has yet generated a career or much income, though I’m hopeful that with more drive and determination—and associating with more people who bring that out in me—I’ll get to where I want to be. My ultimate goal in life is simply to be understood and accepted, and to make things better for others. I feel my genuine self is perhaps more present in my writing and music than anywhere else, as I’ve always been pretty quiet otherwise. If I am as successful as I want to be, I’d like to open homes and shelters for troubled youth and kids in the foster care system, especially in inner cities, and work with getting them the education and finding them the homes they deserve.
There’s much more to that idea of course, but I’ve always wanted to create some sort of major artistic movement that inspires as well as becomes a driving force for social change in the U.S. I feel that artists of all kinds tend to be a very misunderstood sort by the rest of the general population, but also that we are responsible for tearing down the stigma and walls that the societies we live in so often build.
Religion, foreign cultures and languages, gender and sexual identity, mental illness, income inequality…I think the stories we tell, the music we make, and the art we create can all have a major influence on helping everyone understand and communicate better with each other, as well as shaping a better world for the future.
L: What’s something most people don’t know about you?
P: I often suffer from anxiety, minor bouts of depression, and overthink things quite obsessively—especially if I fall in love—but I also feel that’s one of the major cons of most artists. We spend a lot of time lost in our own heads crafting stories, characters, melodies, harmonies, or colors that evoke emotion, and most of us are perfectionists in that regard. The fact it spills over into our personal lives is hardly surprising, but I always think it warrants further discussion, because no one should have to be alone with anxiety or depression. It’s important that artist types especially feel a sense of validation about those kinds of feelings, since most of us retreat into our worlds for a time. Coming out of that zone and into the real world again can be a bit jarring.
L: What inspires you?
P: Everything lol. I’d have to say my own life experiences, and those of friends I’ve associated with, but especially other forms of art in particular. I’m a sucker for gorgeous cinematography and accompanying musical scores, or what I’d term ‘cinematic poetry’. Anime, particularly slice-of-life genre, is such a fun thing to get lost in. So many true-to-life situations, beautiful artwork, and music. Black and white photography, or any photography really inspires me. Distant places I’d love to travel to, stories people tell. Poetry. I appreciate quite a lot of posts on Tumblr. Classical music, be it piano or full orchestra. Ambient music serves me very well when I’m writing (Loscil is one of my most favorite artists for that). Certain types of weather. I adore thunderstorms and rainy days more than anything, but also chilly fall days when the leaves begin to turn, and the silence of winter. So many things.
L: What has been your most recent act of kindness that either you gave or received?
P: I remember maybe a little over a year ago, I was subscribed to an LGBT Facebook page which often posted anonymous statuses of people asking for advice or help. Many people in the Muslim community disapprove of gay people, and there was this young man who lives in Egypt, where the atmosphere is particularly harsh and toxic for anyone of differing sexual preference; coming out can get you jailed or killed. I did my best to give him advice based on a documentary I watched entitled ‘A Jihad For Love’, which highlights the struggles of gay people in Muslim communities, and how some had escaped to France.
I never heard from him after he thanked me, but recently downloaded the Facebook Messenger app on my phone and became aware of tons of message requests the regular site hadn’t notified me of. We started talking again, and thank goodness he’s doing well, and even optimistic about his situation! We share various stories from our lives and talk about our dreams and desires for the future, and we have quite a lot in common. I’m happy to have found such a good friend in a distant place, and that I can provide a source of comfort and refuge for him. He can be himself when he talks to me in a way he can’t otherwise, and I’m more than honored to provide him that much-needed love and support.
L: November is National Novel Writing Month. How many times have you participated in NaNoWriMo, and what have you learned?
P: I believe this will be my third time participating! The other two caught me at a bad time; the first year, I ended up getting my wisdom teeth out, so I wasn’t in the mood to write. Not sure what happened last year, but I think I was under some type of emotional stress. This year, God willing, I’ll be doing my best to plug away! I actually don’t think I’ve learned much from it, since I wasn’t fully immersed in the experience before. This year if I can, I’m very excited to possibly attend some write-in events hosted around the Lehigh Valley at a few different Panera Bread locations and diners (though truthfully, I’m more afraid that the presence of food will hinder my writing abilities and leave me eating everything off the menus while Netflixing in secret in the corner, lol).
Want to continue to see what Peter is up to? You can follow his Adventures in Viktorium web serial and check him out on social media:
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/petervonharten/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/pavonharten
WordPress – https://petervonharten.wordpress.com/