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Interview With an Author: Peter S. Beagle

Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library,
Author Peter S. Beagle and his two collections of short fiction, The Essential Peter S. Beagle Volumes 1 & 2
Author Peter S. Beagle and his two collections of short fiction, The Essential Peter S. Beagle Volumes 1 & 2

Peter Soyer Beagle is the internationally bestselling and much-beloved author of numerous classic fantasy novels and collections, including The Last Unicorn, Tamsin, The Line Between, Sleight of Hand, Summerlong, In Calabria, and The Overneath. He is the editor of The Secret History of Fantasy and the co-editor of The Urban Fantasy Anthology. Beagle published his first novel, A Fine and Private Place, at nineteen, while still completing his degree in creative writing. Beagle’s follow-up, The Last Unicorn, is widely considered one of the great works of fantasy. He has written widely for both stage and screen, including the screenplay adaptations for The Last Unicorn, the animated film of The Lord of the Rings, and the well-known "Sarek" episode of Star Trek. As one of the fantasy genre’s most-lauded authors, Beagle has received the Hugo, Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Locus Awards, as well as the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. He has also been honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award and the Comic-Con International Inkpot Award. In 2017, he was named 34th Damon Knight Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association for his contributions to fantasy and science fiction. Beagle lives in Richmond, California. He has recently created two collections of his short fiction, The Essential Peter S. Beagle Volumes 1, & 2, and he recently talked about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.

What inspired you to collect some of your short fiction into The Essential Peter S. Beagle Volumes 1 & 2?

In all honesty, that was my publisher’s idea. I had no idea how many stories I’d written! Novels take me so long that I’m always amazed to discover how many stories I’ve written in between. There are a lot of other stories, but these are a good sampling.

What was your process for putting together this collection? How did you decide which of your stories would be included?

I really don’t remember those decisions. My publisher handled everything.

What are your plans for this series? Will there be additional volumes?

Right now, I’m too busy worrying about the novel I’m working on. So maybe I’ll take a break to think about stories again before it’s finished, but I’m not sure.

You wrote the story and teleplay for the third season episode, "Sarek" of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Are you a Star Trek fan? Do you have a favorite series? A favorite character? A favorite episode (beyond your own)?

I like Star Trek. I knew some of the actors, to one degree or another, particularly René Auberjonois who I really liked. I also had an enormous crush on Nichelle Nichols, and I still do. She kissed me!

You’ve done a lot of different types of work (novels, short stories, graphic novels, screenwriting, writing and developing for television, just to name a few). Is there a format that you prefer over the others?

For me, novels are the most fun, because it takes me forever to find out what I’m doing. I’m always wrong. It’s the way Snoopy writes novels: “It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out. A maidservant screamed. A pirate ship appeared on the horizon. Meanwhile, in far-off Kansas, a boy was growing up.” Then Snoopy looks into the camera, and says “in the second half, I pull all this together.” That’s how I write.

Is there something you haven’t done yet but are hoping to have the opportunity to try?

I’d love to write the book and lyrics for a musical.

What’s currently on your nightstand?

At the moment, it’s the second Flashman book (Royal Flash) and the autobiography of Curt Siodmak.

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

There were a number of them; it’s hard to pick just one. Let’s go with The Wind in the Willows for today. I can see the cover in my head, and I can still quote it. That’s a book that definitely affected my life, because I wanted to do that.

Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?

There was nothing that I hid from my parents. They had all the books. I grew up in my parent’s living room, and nothing was forbidden to me.

Is there a book you've faked reading?

No, there are a lot of books I haven’t read that I still hope to get to, but I haven’t faked any.

Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?

No, I never really look at the cover.

Is there a book that changed your life?

There are a lot of them. Recently, considering that I grew up with legends about golems and jinni, Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni is one.

Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?

Tropic of Night, by Michael Gruber. If I could write like Michael Gruber, I would. The book is the scariest thing I’ve read in years, but it’s more than that. It’s about all the things we believe that aren’t so.

What is the last piece of art (music, movies, tv, more traditional art forms) that you've experienced or that has impacted you?

I loved the movie The Shape of Water. So much tumbles through my head when I think about that.

What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?

These days, there’d be a lot of napping involved! Other than that, it would be any place in Europe where my Nell would come to meet me.

What is the question that you’re always hoping you’ll be asked, but never have been? What is your answer?

Nobody ever asks where Molly Grue came from. That’s actually a good thing, because I don’t know; I just know that I’m profoundly grateful. No Molly, no book.

Book cover for The Essental Peter S. Beagle: Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories
The Essental Peter S. Beagle: Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories
Beagle, Peter S.

Book cover for The Essental Peter S. Beagle: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories
The Essental Peter S. Beagle: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories
Beagle, Peter S.