The title comes from a movie set when I did some extra work in my pursuit of an acting career. The extras were referred to as “background.” On the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Last Action Hero, I was one of many, many extras in Times Square on a cold winter night. The assistant director called for “background noise,” which was our cue to begin the cheering that the scene required. I thought it would make a good title for a book, a kind of metaphor for a person’s life. I’d always wanted to write a book about a character’s alienation from life in middle class suburbia, so I put the two together.
I don’t have a message. It’s more about themes and ideas. The search for identity. How to handle guilt, which is such a destructive feeling. How the loss of one’s parents at a young age can leave you subconsciously frozen in later years. The fear of death. Viewing women as a vehicle to happiness.
Like my character Henry, I lost my parents at a young age, and I remained in their house until I was 35. It was difficult to leave. I had a younger brother and sister and we remained together for many years in the house. The house became a character. It had a hold on us. It divided us at times. And like Henry, I was also passive about life, and worked some blue collar jobs during, and after, college.
I feel comfortable with the way the book turned out.
The hardest part was the discipline to write, and feeling like I had anything to say. I felt like everything I wanted to say had already been said before, and said better. I’m very hard on myself. But then I started to use images and feelings from the past, and build stories around them. I wrote my first short story in 2004 and sent it out to a contest in a now defunct literary magazine called New York Stories. I won 2nd prize, $250, and publication in the magazine. That helped my confidence and I continued to build stories around the Henry character.
I learned to trust my voice, and to keep using my past for inspiration. I never thought I could write fiction, I liked writing non-fiction stories about my experiences. So I made my stories autobiographical fiction and found a style that was suited to me. Getting my stories published in on-line literary journals has helped me to believe in myself.
My mother would sit me down during summer vacations and have me work on a variety of writing assignments on a yellow pad. Every day. She must’ve recognized my talent and desire or something and made me write. Which I loved doing. I still have some of those assignments. The first story I wrote was in 5th grade. It was a haunted house story. My teacher wrote that it was very good, but “awfully bloody.” I typed it on an ancient typewriter with screwed up keys. I still have it. I’m really proud of it.
I love Haruki Murakami. His writing was the catalyst for my short story beginnings. I liked the casual style, and character insights. I felt like he knew me. And I’m drawn to his themes of alienation and the mysteries that reside in the hearts of women.
One of the stories in the novel was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. That was unbelievable. That I could write something that could be recognized like that. If you’re reading my book, I’m flattered, and if my words can have some kind of effect on you, then I’m truly flattered.
About the Book
Disaffected suburbanite Henry Walker is on a one-man mission to clean up his town. But is he a popular hero or an enemy of the people? BACKGROUND NOISE charts a young man’s descent from dreams of stardom to fantasies of revenge. As Henry immerses himself in his past, memories become guilt, guilt becomes obsession, until violence is the only logical response.
“It's been a long time since I've read a novel like Peter DeMarco's Background Noise – in fact, I'm not sure I've ever read anything quite like it. Not since Raymond Carver was writing at the top of his form have we gotten a frontline report on the state of the white, middle-class, working man as stark, dark, and powerful as Background Noise.”
– Stephen Stark, author, The Final Appearance of America's Favorite Girl Next Door
Prices/Formats: $8.99 paperback, $2.99 ebook
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publisher: Pangea Press
Release Date: November 23, 2012
Buy Links: Amazon, Kindle
About the Author
Peter DeMarco teaches high school English and film in New York City. He was first published in The New York Times when he wrote about hanging out with his idol, writer Mickey Spillane. His short story “The Fireman” was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize. He was a 4th place finalist in the Bartleby Snopes Dialogue contest. Peter’s stories have appeared on-line in Prime Number Magazine, decomP, Red Lightbulbs, Monkeybicycle, SmokeLong Quarterly, Flashquake, Verbsap, Pindeldyboz, Hippocampus, and Dogzplot. Peter lives in New Jersey with his wife Charmaine, and two boys.
Links to connect with Peter:
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