Gary Eldon Peter joins The Spotlight to discuss his latest YA novel

Author Name: Gary Eldon Peter

Book Title: The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen

Book Genre: Young adult fiction

Release Date: July 5, 2022

Publisher: Fitzroy Books (an imprint of Regal House Publishing)

Welcome, Gary! What drew you to writing YA fiction?

I think it was more a matter of YA finding me than me finding it, if that makes sense. My original idea for the novel was much different than what I ended up with. Over time, as I kept revising it, it sort of turned into a YA novel without me really knowing it, and the genre seems to fit the subject matter and the story. I’d like to think that my novel has some crossover appeal — an adult reader could also pick it up and get something out of it. I’m mindful of the expression that YA books are about young people, but that doesn’t mean they are exclusively for young people.

What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?

Some famous writer (I can’t remember who) once said that they enjoy having written, but not the process of writing (I’m paraphrasing here). I’m somewhat the same way – I like seeing the final product, especially in print, but getting there is another story. At the same time, sometimes I do enjoy the drafting stage – it’s a bit like try to solve a puzzle trying to get at what you really mean and what you intend to say. I also like thinking about structure – how is this thing going to come together? What’s the right order? For me the challenge is turning off that judgmental “self editor” that can get in the way. I just try to be really patient with myself and if it takes me all day to write a paragraph, then I try to accept that and just keep going.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

It’s pretty basic, but LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, in all communities. Also, acceptance and understanding for LGBTQ+ individuals not living in urban areas can still be a challenge despite the significant progress we have made. I hope that readers of whatever age but particularly LGBTQ+ kids will appreciate their story being told, will feel “seen,” and know that they are not alone.

What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?

You really have to think about how to market your work. With my first book I really didn’t have much of an understanding of the role promotion and marketing play in publishing. It takes a lot of organization and planning, and you can’t wait until the day your book comes out to start that process. It’s something that you need to think about from the moment you learn that your book is going to be published. By the time my second book came out, I felt I had a much better understanding of that. A smaller press may do a great job producing your book, but they can’t do it all. You have to consider whether to get help from a publicist, and you need to make sure that if you go that route, you’ve selected the right person. For me, working with a publicist has been a great investment, but every writer needs to decide for themselves whether that makes sense.

Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?

Shortly before my first book came out, a mentor gave me really great advice about the importance of perspective: yes, it’s a great thing to be published, but it’s not everything and your work, and how it is received, doesn’t define you as a person or your worth.

Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.

I’m trying to get back to writing stories with the goal of producing another book-length collection. More recently, though, I’ve been writing essays. I’ve never really thought essays to be my thing, but I’ve actually enjoyed writing them and plan to do more with that genre.

Where can readers find you?

My web site:

I have lots of great information there about me, my books, other writing that I’ve done, and events that I have coming up.

Thank you, Gary! The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen is OUT NOW.

Set on a small and struggling family dairy operation in southern Minnesota, The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen follows fifteen-year-old Carl as he confronts his crush on Andy Olnan, a handsome and confident but secretive “city boy” recently transplanted to farm life from Minneapolis, who may or may not share the same feelings. At the same time, Carl and his father clash over the future of their farm, a legacy of Carl’s late mother: how do they honor her dream for the family while also ensuring financial security? Carl discovers his own resilience in the face of grief, adult-sized decisions, and unrequited love, and along the way learns to cope with both the challenges and rewards of being different.

Author Bio:

Gary Eldon Peter is the author of two works of fiction: Oranges, a linked short story collection published by New Rivers Press, and the novel The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen, published by Fitzroy Books/Regal House and winner of the Acheven Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction. Oranges received the Gold Medal for LGBT+ fiction in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Midwest Book Award, and was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies and has been performed on the public radio program Selected Shorts. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and is a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. You can learn more about Gary and his work at