Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Peter Doerfler

One Tooth Tim with Brag Med

I’d like to welcome Peter Doerfler to Layered Pages today to talk with me about his B.R.A.G. Medallion book, “One Tooth Tim and Pirate Jim.” Peter grew up in Millburn, NJ. There he spent many afternoons playing football and war with his neighborhood friends and many evenings reading books and watching the Mets. He considers his first book, “One Tooth Tim & Pirate Jim” to be a mash-up of two of his favorites: “The Lord of the Rings” and “Winnie the Pooh,” with Pooh Bear carrying the donkey’s tail into the evil darkness of Mordor. Well, not quite. Actually, his work is an attempt to channel the courage and peril of Tolkein alongside the gentleness and humor of Milne. The story began sitting on the pier of Salem, Ma., looking out at the tall ships and telling his then 3 year-old son, Theo, a story about two fictional pirates: One Tooth Tim and Pirate Jim. From there, the stories and characters kept coming until he found the strand to tie them together.  Peter has since moved from the North Shore to Chester County, Pennsylvania, and he and his wife have added two younger pirates-in-the-making. He is currently a pastor at a local church and loves pizza, songwriting, storytelling, Jesus, the N.Y. Giants, shrimp and more shrimp.

Hello, Peter! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

My wife, Jamye, discovered indieBRAG. She was helping me by researching PR options for self-published titles and thought they would be a great fit to review the book, and hopefully (if they liked it) add credibility to a story we both believed in.

Tell me a little about your story.

“One Tooth Tim & Pirate Jim” is primarily a story about friendship and courage—with some doses of humor and peril. Pirate Jim is the more serious of the two main characters, but both young pirates have a willingness to go straight into danger when duty, gold, or candy calls! The book is also playful in its approach to history, setting and other details. Blending fictional and real geography and deciding where to establish those “boundaries” was a fun part of creating the world they inhabit.

What is one of the adventures Pirate Jim and One Tooth Tim have?

Saving their hometown of Ipswich is the first major obstacle of the story. With the Pirates of Kendor bearing down on them, they needed to react quickly to their attack if Ipswich is to have a chance of not being over-run by the Pirate Princess and her hordes. Pirate Jim is set to become the hero, before other things happen …

Please tell me a little about, The Backwards Man and how did you come up with that name?

I don’t remember the exact origins of the The Backwards Man, creatively speaking, but I think he developed out of giving myself the challenge of occasionally speaking backward while telling these stories to my son, and watching him think as hard as his four-year-old brain could, to try and decipher the sentence. I learned several things, but the most important was: keep the sentences short! It’s no fun for the readers if they can’t actually figure out what was said without totally breaking the rhythm of the story. The name was simply shorthand for the character—a bit like The Man with Green Boots (another character in the story). I felt, based on Curious George and “The Man with the Yellow Hat,” that I could have some fun with that type of naming convention, as long as I didn’t overdo it.

Why did you chose North Shore of Massachusetts for the setting of your story?

I feel more like the North Shore chose me! I had lived there for three years while studying at Gordon-Conwell seminary in Wenham, MA, so I was fresh from that setting when I started to tell these stories. I had gone back to visit some friends, and as you mentioned earlier, was sitting at the Salem Pier and needed to pass some time with my son when I came up with the original characters for the story. I set them in the North Shore because it is the only coastal area I have lived in, and actually had pirates at one time in its history. Being able to draw on real places and landmarks made the storytelling both simpler and more interesting.

You mentioned to me that the time period for your story is early 1700’s, which is roughly the time when pirates were still active off the coast of New England. What is some of the research you did for your story and what fascinated you the most about that?

Well, sad to say, my pirate “research” can be summed up in one trip to the Salem Pirate museum and the consumption of child-level nonfiction and fiction books on pirates! That’s primarily because One Tooth Tim and Pirate Jim are “pirates” in some ways (i.e. Treasure hunting and sailing), but not in other more fundamental ways (i.e. Actual criminal activity!)

I believe stories like this help children get excited about the past. What do you hope readers gain from reading your story?

Honestly, I would hope that they gain an appreciation for how to be a true and loyal friend and how to respond to enemies with mercy. From there, I’m counting on parents to explain why a nice Virginia college (Randolph Macon) is not actually an evil villain, that Ipswich was never ruled by a local monarchy, and that you can’t really find Kendor on the map!

Please tell me a little about the legacy and practice today, of witchcraft in Salem. And how much of witchcraft plays a part in your story?

I always found it ironic that a rather shameful part of Salem’s history has now become fundamentally part of its current identity, and commercially linked to its promotion and endorsement. As for the story, witchcraft plays two small, but important roles: one in establishing the backstory of the Backward Man, and another in establishing the role of the main villain. That said, as I work through what I hope to be the next “One Tooth Tim & Pirate Jim” story, witchcraft has essentially fallen out of the storyline.

How much time did you spend writing your story and where in your home do you like to write?

I spent almost two years writing the book. I really wouldn’t have started without the encouragement of my wife, and certainly wouldn’t have finished with the story I did without her providing strong feedback and editorial guidance along the way. (It helps tremendously when one’s spouse has an MFA in Creative Writing!) I like to write in our finished attic. It’s very sunny, and the quiet snoring of my cat, Zorro, reminds me of the ocean. Okay, that was a lie, but I thought it sounded very poetic.

What is your writing process?

First, I tell the story verbally to my sons at bedtime. Then, if need be, change and re-tell the story. Having an at-home “focus group” of three young boys keeps pushing me to develop stories that are compelling, scary, funny, interesting, and hold together. It has also been a key way for me to develop each character’s voice—both literally (you can hear me reading OTT&PJ here) and literarily. Once I have a sense of the story, as such, I move into writing. I went through multiple drafts, chapter by chapter, and then going through the book as a whole over two years. I believe you have to leave gaps of time within the revision process so you can forget what you first thought was brilliant, and then proceed to edit the manuscript with as unbiased a perspective as possible.

Who designed your book cover?

Andrea Landerl provided all the illustrations for the book and frankly blew me away with her gouache paintings. I loved her sense of expression and the richness she captured in both the colors and details throughout the book. Definitely recommend her services.

Where can readers buy your book?

Glad you asked! They can buy the ebook on Amazon, Nook or Apple’s iBookstore. A link to each of these is available through my website.

Thank you, Peter! It was a pleasure talking to you today.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Peter Doerfler who is the author of, One Tooth Tim and Pirate Jim, one of our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, One Tooth Tim and Pirate Jim, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


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