Welcome!  OK, first some friendly, authorish rules:  ♦♦ I cannot reveal 39 Clues or Seven Wonders spoilers, no matter how beautifully you ask.  Also, I’m not able to read/evaluate stories or excerpts from novels, as I am maxed out from tour and new writing projects. ♦♦ All answers given below.  Oh, and if you do NOT want your message recorded here, just let me know.  OK, now that that’s out of the way, please click the “Add Guestbook Entry” link, just below

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Dave Opatow
Hi Peter

Come back to the Freeport Memorial Library - all is forgiven

Dave opatow
Freeport Memorial Library
Friday, July 16, 2010 at 08:36:48 PM
Peter replied

Ha! Hilarious! Thanks, Dave, this message truly makes my day. What a relief; it was hard to carry that guilt around my whole life. I will be sure to return, head held high.

(For those of you reading this who are scratching your heads, he is referring to this blog post, also reprinted on my blog page here!)

Being a full-time author, do you find it difficult to meet book deadlines?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 08:58:25 PM
Peter replied
It depends on how much lead time, how much traveling I have to do, family commitments, etc. Plus, I tend to be a perfectionist & agonize over things, so I guess the short answer is yes!
Ok...So, let's say that I have my main character. I want another character's story/feelings to become known; if I stick with first person, how would I convey to the readers that I'm switching characters?
Wednesday, July 14, 2010 at 08:56:39 PM
Peter replied
Use a chapter format, introduce a new chapter when you change POV, and label each chapter with the character's name.
Ok, thanks!

Before you became a full time writer, what other jobs did you have?

Do you think it's Ok to skip from first person to third person PoV when changing chapters, or should I stick with one PoV?
Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 02:29:02 PM
Peter replied

I was a musical theater actor and singer before I switched to writing full-time, but you can get further details on this page of my bio section.

It's possible to switch between first person and third, but I only recommended it if you really think it through carefully -- and if you're consistent about it. For example, some writers will write a book in third person but convey one character's POV in a first-person inner monologue. In that case, you will want to do something to differentiate and isolate that -- for example, using italics and/or creating a separate chapter or clearly marked section. Then you will need to periodically return to this device, because you will be, in effect, setting up a story within a story that the reader will want to follow. (Horror writers, by the way, tend to do this sort of thing a lot.) But if you do decide to go this convention, I'd recommend doing it with only one character or it will be too confusing. So basically, unless you are really, really, rigorous about it and are confident that you know what you're doing, I'd stick with either third or first person throughout.

Would you recommend using first or third person PoV? Which is easier?

Also, would you recommend using past or present tense when writing?
Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 07:29:42 PM
Peter replied
All of these have my blessing; they're all essential tools in a writer's kit. First person is good for some stories, but it limits you to one point of view and prevents you from describing things that the character doesn't know. Also you wouldn't use it if you want to preserve the mystery of whether a character will live or die (if you're writing in first-person present tense, for example, the character is by definition alive). Present tense gives a sense of immediacy but isn't right for everything. Try them out and see what feels right for the story.

I've been non-stop reading since kindergarten. I think by I had finished my 5 grade year, I had almost cleared out the fiction section of the library. Unfortunately, it never occured to me that I could write!

Occasionally though, my mom would buy books without anything on the pages, and my family and I would all sit down and make silly stories!
Thursday, July 08, 2010 at 05:45:14 PM
Peter replied
Fantastic. The best kind of upbringing!
That's ok 🙂

wow! good luck at finishing that!

I will definitely check out that website! Thanks!
Thursday, July 08, 2010 at 05:42:43 PM
Peter replied
Thanks 🙂

When you were a kid, did you always dream of being a writer, or did you have other fantasies?

Do you remember when the first time you found out you liked to write was?
Thursday, July 08, 2010 at 02:26:53 PM
Peter replied
I dreamed about being a writer and a stage performer. Those are pretty much the only two ways I've made a living my entire adult life, so I feel pretty lucky. I wanted to be a writer pretty much from about second or third grade on. My idea of a fun time was to close my door, sit at my desk, and lose myself either in reading or writing my own adventures. (My mom saved most of them, and they're fun to read now!)
For once in my life, I think I'm actually speechless.

Thank you soooooo much!!!!!!!
Thursday, July 08, 2010 at 02:21:06 PM
Peter replied
You're welcome!
Wow, thanks! I'll definitely keep that in mind!

Do you think, if you're not too busy, you could email me at my email address ( so you could edit, or at least critique, a little of my story?

I would put it on here, but I'm kinda' paranoid when it comes to my stories.......
Thursday, July 08, 2010 at 02:15:59 PM
Peter replied
I wish I had the time for an edit that would do justice to your story. My schedule, alas, is completely insane (like, two books due by August 1!!) and I barely have the time to do even the most basic things, like answer my guestbook! So let me wish you good luck and do consider joining the SCBWI at some point, where you will have access to tons of great critique groups!
Sorry about my sister (Cass). She sorta’ freaked out when she saw I had been contacting you.

She says that her stories are better than my scary stories (and I write more than just scary stories), but I think we both like each others stories. No matter how much we say we don’t.
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 at 01:27:20 AM
Peter replied

Hey, I'm happy you both wrote. There's room for everyone. I kind of suspected you really like each other's stories. You sound like a talented family.

Thanks for writing and I look forward to seeing you both in print someday.

Omg! I absolutely love your books! And you! You. Are. Amazing!!!! My stupid brother has been adding entries for the past few days, and he knows I’m your absolute biggest fan, and he never told me about this website!

You and your books inspired me to write some stories of my own! 😀

When do you find is the best time to write? I’m experimenting with that, but I’m not having much success. :/ I think it helps me to write at night. Idk why, but the ideas just seem to flow out, like I’m the keyboard, and someone else is typing. 😀

My brother says he is writing stories, but I think they are just attempts. Mine are much better. More action. He just writes scary stuff, but it isn’t even scary! It’s just pathetic!

I love you! Your absolute biggest fan (yes, even bigger a fan than that Monica girl!)

P.S. I'll even let you call me by my stupid nickname! 😀
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 at 01:11:53 AM
Peter replied

Cassandra -- thanks for the kind words! I'm flattered and honored that I've been an inspiration to you. I don't have a definite best time of the day to write, mainly because I catch whatever time I can -- and sometimes (during heavy deadlines) it just happens to be all day long! Generally, though, I'm with you -- nighttimes are great. No interruptions, no need to get back to people, darkness, being alone with your thoughts -- nice atmosphere for creative work! That feeling that you describe -- your fingers flying like someone else is writing the story -- that's a sign of a true writer.

Good luck to you!


I do my best to add strange twists (like at one point, a lake became a circus tent). But I know how I need the story to end, but I don't know how to manipulate it to an unexpected way...Do you have any more tips on that?

When you write, do you always know how your story is going to go, or do you find that, as you're writing, your story takes its own path, and that what you had planned isn't what really happens?

I really like your books (Spy X, Watchers, etc). What other books have you written?
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 at 12:46:27 AM
Peter replied

Wow -- if you can turn a lake into a circus tent, then I have confidence you can think of an unexpected ending. Again, it's too hard for me to give specific advice without knowing your storyline, but here's one tip: think of the way the story SHOULD end first. Then imagine another way the story COULD end -- a way that seems satisfying but can easily be blown apart. Write to the second one, then build your way back to the first.

(That's all....)

Ah, well, no one said the ride would be easy. But it's fun when you get there.

As for my other books, please feel free to browse the "About the Books" section above. And thanks for asking!

That was pretty interesting!

Would you recommend using a pen name for stories when you get them published?
Tuesday, July 06, 2010 at 12:38:23 AM
Peter replied
I wouldn't recommend using a pen name unless you have a good reason, like your name is, say, Ima Hogg and you're embarrassed by it, or you're in trouble with the law, or your name happens to be Stephen King and you don't want people to be confused. In my case, it was none of those things. Really. It was the beginning of my career and I was writing tons of movie novelizations and I didn't want to be known as "the movie novelization guy." In some cases I used pen names because I was writing in some series that required it, like the Hardy Boys, which turned me into Franklin W. Dixon. I have some more info on my pen names in the right column of this page.
Are you a full time author, or do you have a 'behind the scenes' job?

Is Peter Lerangis your real name, or is it a pseudonym?
Monday, July 05, 2010 at 02:51:54 PM
Peter replied
Yup, I've been a full-time writer for more than twenty years. And Peter Lerangis is indeed my name, although there's a story behind that, and you can find it here!
Thanks for the advice!

I've started creating each chapter an almost separate story with it's own climax, and it's working out great! It really helped.

I tried to create an outline, but I figured out that I don't have very much knowledge about the story myself. I know what I want to happen at some parts, and I've written excerpts so I can plug them in or piggy back, but other than that, I only know basically: they get in, the find the artifacts, they progress to the next level (they're in a game). Any suggestions?

Another problem I've run into is names. Not normal names for people, but the races of creatures I'm going to have in my story. I've tried google translate, and combining words from a different language, and that helps sometimes, but other times I can't find anything. I'm a perfectionist, and the name has to fit the species' overall personality...How do you come up with names?

And finally, when I'm writing a story, I have a hard time with coming up with a title. I want the title to summarize the book in general in a few words. How do you recommend creating titles?

Thanks again!
Friday, July 02, 2010 at 06:48:04 PM
Peter replied
Well, without knowing your story, it's hard for me to be specific, but here's something that may help: the biggest question is why do they want the artifact? You need to make the stakes VERY high. Life or death. And then think, (1) why does each character want that artifact (if their personalities are clearly laid out, they should have very different reasons), (2) what does each character want from the other character, (3) what are they willing to sacrifice to get what they want, and (4) what do they get in the end? Again, each of these things must have HUGE stakes. Ideally, the answer to (4) should involve a twist. Misdirect the reader to one conclusion, which seems to tie everything up, only to subvert that completely and introduce a surprise that changes the meaning of the whole story. As for names, all I can recommend is to use placeholders (xyz, abc, 456, etc.) for the character names and then, when you're not writing, and your mind is relaxed, start jotting down names that pop into your head -- keep your eye and ear on everything, street signs, shops, conversations, newspaper/magazine articles, etc. Read mythology, etc. It should be fun. If it stops being fun, give yourself a rest & don't force it. As for titles, ooh, true confession, I'm not very good at that. In almost all of my books, my editor always thinks of a better title than I do!
Hi Peter, this is me again, Monica.
Thankyou for your reply. I will ahve a look at the Antarctica books. Could you please, please, please write another sequel to the Spy X series. I would absolutely love that.
Thankyou from Monica
Friday, July 02, 2010 at 06:23:45 AM
Peter replied
Thank you, Monica. If a publisher is interested in continuing the SPY X series, you bet I will write a sequel! My hunch is that they are more likely to want a new series, and you can be sure I will write one with just as much excitement and intrigue! Hope you're enjoying the 4th of July weekend!
Hi Peter,
I am a big, big, humungous fan of yours. I love your books even though I have only read the Spy X series and the 39 Clues series. I absolutely adore the Spy X series, and I could not put the book down. I have just finished the last book of the series "Tunnel Vision." I can't believe that the series is over. Please, please, please, please, please write another sequel to the book. I would be most grateful. I love adventure stories e.g- 39 Clues, Spy X; but could you please suggest some more books of yours that are great adventure stories??? That would be awesome.
Please reply.....
From your biggest fan Monica!
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 12:33:00 PM
Peter replied
Hello, Monica! What a lovely note, and many thanks. Writing Spy X was one of the most fun things I ever did, so it's really gratifying to read your message. OK, if you like adventure, I'd recommend the ANTARCTICA books: Book 1, JOURNEY TO THE POLE, and Book 2, ESCAPE FROM DISASTER. They're a little hard to find but not impossible. Check out the "About the Books" section of this site, where there are descriptions of the book and a link to where you can get them. And keep your eyes peeled for more new projects soon. Have a great summer, and let me know if you like ANTARCTICA!
I just finished your 'Antarctica' books. I loved them. Could hardly put them down for a moment. It was a very character driven story and I like that.
I did have a question that has been driving my crazy since I first started reading. I was wondering if the character Kosta Kontonikoaos was wondering if Balki Bartokomous from Perfect Strangers was the inspiration. I noticed quite a few similarities in character. For one, their names compare. They both have a very loose grasp on the English language, they use the word 'popo' in the same way. They love animals. Balki's favorite sheep back home was named Dimitri, one of Kosta's dogs was named Dimitriou. Kosta mentioned that 'back home they wouldn't treat a goat this way', something Balki has said before. And that last little jig Kosta did when they were rescued sounded an awful lot like the 'Dance of Joy'.

He was by far my favorite character in that story and I was just wondering if the similarities were intentional. If so I think that's GREAT. If not, it's still cool.
Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 05:14:16 PM
Peter replied
No, Kostas wasn't based on Balki, but your observations are very astute! I grew up in a Greek-American family (as a matter of fact, Kontonikolaos was my mother's maiden name), and the character of Kostas came from my own observations of hundreds of Greek relatives and friends. I imagine whoever wrote Balki's character on Perfect Strangers also drew on his or her own personal experiences. So because they are basically drawn from the same ethnic group, there are bound to be coincidental similarities. (And the ones you mention bring a big smile to my face and make me want to go and rent some of those old shows!) Thanks for writing. Very glad you enjoyed ANTARCTICA!
Hey it's me again. Thanks for replying my entry, that really meant a lot. I read all of the summaries for the books that you've written and one that really interest me the most was The Drama Club series. I'm into the whole high school clique drama kind of thing. So I went to the library today and checked out the first book. So far it is really good. I am on chapter 6. Anyways I wanted to know what inspired you into writing The Drama Club???
Friday, June 25, 2010 at 03:42:52 AM
Peter replied
Great -- DRAMA CLUB was one of my favorites series to write. I was a total drama geek in high school (and afterward). If you go to my bio section on this site you can see some photos from back when I was a professional musical theater actor. So Drama Club came out of that experience, and also from the experience of seeing my two sons go through it also -- both of them were drama kids in high school. Our younger son, in fact, was in a professional children's theater in NYC. And my wife is a musician who is working on writing a Broadway show. So theater has always been a huge part of my life. Anyway, one day a few years back I read an article in the newspaper about a real high school where the musicals had 6-figure budgets and amazing production values -- and it all clicked. I thought it would be cool to write about a group of drama kids in a high school where plays are nearly life-or-death events for the whole community. Really glad you're enjoying the story!