Author Of "The Burqa Cave" Says The Idea Came From His Love Of Horror Movies And Books
Still disturbed by Iraq, Wyoming High School Teacher Tim Ross learns about a strange ritual involving an old crime and phantom sightings of a murdered girl. That's the tease to the book The Burqa Cave written by Wyoming author Dean Petersen who joined Bob Beck.
Bob Beck: This was your first novel. I know you've done some things video wise and you've done a podcast. How difficult was it to make the transition?
Dean Petersen: Oh, it's actually a lot more fun to write because when you write, it's all on you just to make it the best story it can be. Whereas sometimes when you do video, well, whether actors do different things can affect the overall product.
BB: Where did the idea for this come from? I get the impression you were out on a hike. Is that right?
DP: That's pretty close. I was actually at the gun range in southwestern Wyoming in the Bridger Valley. It's just this isolated place, outside of town where nothing really grows. It kind of looks like the Dakota Badlands. I was shooting and thinking about how eerie it was out there and started to wonder what if you saw something you didn't want to see out here?
BB: Well, that's sort of what your book is about. You've got some ghosts, you've got murder, you've got some intrigue, and you've got some memories. Can you give us sort of a thumbnail sketch about what this book is about?
DP: A young guy named Tim Ross comes back from Iraq and he's upset and haunted by some things. He starts to teach high school English in a small Wyoming town. It's fictional, it's called Meadowlark. But essentially, it's Mountain View, over in the southwest corner of the state. While he's teaching, he starts to actually get a little bit better, since he has something else to focus on. But that summer, a teenage girl went missing. And one of his students who was kind of odd, who said he could see ghosts, leads him right to the body of that missing girl. And Tim is forced to confront that there might be something beyond the grave and that there might be consequences to some of the things that happened in Iraq, that he still feels bad about and wants to try to find redemption. He goes after the person preying on these kids in their town.
BB: What can you tell us about what the soldier encountered all those years ago?
DP: Well, he killed a civilian who was not a combatant and he feels really bad about it. And as you read more, you understand a little bit more about why he made the decision he did when he was in that spot. But you know, understandably, it really bothers him. And he still is having nightmares about it. So he wants to look into this.
BB: We don't want to give too much away, but there may have been some other killings, correct?
DP: Yeah, in fact, for years, someone has been preying on people in this town. And again, like you say, I don't want to give it away too much. But there are active killers still in their community. And it's not Tim, but he does take it upon himself to try to find this person and stop them.
BB: This was your first novel. How long did the book take to put together?
DP: For me, because it was my first novel, it actually only took like two months. The fun thing about writing your first novel is that all your ideas are fresh and original. Unless you're borrowing other people's work. Now that I've written a few manuscripts, the hardest part is, I keep going in circles and coming back to the same themes and ideas. I joined the army after writing the first draft. And then after I came home, I cleaned up some things that weren't quite correct, or weren't quite accurate, but it was still a pretty cohesive piece and started submitting to publishers.
BB: You're a bit of a horror movie and maybe a horror book fan. Can you tell us a little bit about how that influences your writing?
DP: Well, yeah, I don't know what's wrong with me. But I sometimes see the worst things in my head and start writing about it. And I really don't know why. I think it's fun sometimes to be afraid of ghosts or things like that, which I think most of us don't have too many problems with. I worry now as an adult about my furnace breaking, someone hurting my kids. Something that is a lot more possible and a lot more frightening to me. So sometimes it's fun to go back to those things that scared you when you were younger, that probably aren't really much of a threat.
BB: Has this story been in your head for a little bit?
DP: I think I visited that gun range for years, and it was always kind of a spooky place. People go there to shoot guns and shoot fireworks. And I don't know, it always kind of haunted me. So it's fun, I guess to have an outlet to express some of those fears on some level.
BB: I think for a young writer or a new writer, that the story really seemed to flow for you.
DP: Yeah, I got very lucky. I put a lot of the imagery when I imagined joining the military into the story as far as the uniforms, the looks, the attitudes. I was deeply influenced by a book that's really a great book called Keeping Watch. I believe it's by Laurie R. King about a veteran who returns from Vietnam and is haunted by some things and has to make some positive decisions to try to heal. But no, I got very lucky. And I think anyone who's involved with a creative pursuit sometimes just does.
BB: What do you have in the works right now?
DP: There's one about an Iraq war vet who's moved to a small Wyoming town and tries to stop a cult. So that manuscript is out there. I'm trying to see if someone will buy it and one is about a teenage boy who loves horror movies. And his love of horror movies leads him to some old film strips by an abandoned house. And on them is a girl who's making her own horror movies and he loves her very much. But he finds out that someone was apparently murdered in that house. A young woman who likes to make horror movies and he's trying to find out what really happened.
BB: Do you anticipate staying with the Wyoming theme?
DP: Sometimes, like the one about the kid who loves horror movies, it took place at my dad's last duty station, which was south of Los Angeles. I spent some time in Southern California but by and large…[I'm a] Wyoming man. I drive places a lot for work and I just get images in my head of, 'Oh my gosh, what if this story happened?' It's a great place to live.
BB: Dean Peterson, the author of The Burka Cave will be in Casper at Windy City Books on August 5th. You can find the book on Amazon. I imagine all the other usual places as well. Dean, thank you so much for your time and good luck with all of this.
DP: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.