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    The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen

    By Michele Karlsberg–

    Michele Karlsberg: Gary Eldon Peter this month is celebrating the publication of The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen, a young adult novel. It is about a gay teenager living on a small and struggling Minnesota dairy farm. He thinks he has met the boy of his dreams, but the relationship turns out to be a lot more complicated than he realizes. He is also dealing with the potential loss of the farm, which was handed down from his late mother’s family, and the conflicts he has with his father about what to do about it. I recently spoke with Peter for the San Francisco Bay Times about his new book and more.

    Michele Karlsberg: Young adult books tend to be popular among adult readers. Why do you think that is? 

    Gary Eldon Peter: I’m mindful of the expression that YA books are about young adults, but aren’t necessarily exclusively “for” young adults. I think a big part of the reason for that might be because adult readers appreciate seeing their adolescent experiences and selves reflected in literature that likely wasn’t available when they were younger. I think that is particularly true for older LGBTQ+ readers like myself. In my growing up, there were no YA books that portrayed what it was like to be a gay teenager and the many challenges that come with that. As I was writing the novel, I often thought about what it would have been like had my own book been out there for me, and how it might have made me feel better about who I was and what I was struggling with. That was really a lot of my motivation for writing it in the first place.

    Michele Karlsberg: What do you hope that readers will get out of reading your book? 

     Gary Eldon Peter: 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.

    Michele Karlsberg: You are a fiction writer, but have you ever considered writing in other genres? 

     Gary Eldon Peter: I love reading and hearing poetry, but I can’t imagine myself ever trying to write poetry. I did, though, take a poetry class in graduate school that was more of a study of the craft rather than writing poems, and I’m so grateful that I did. I gained a great appreciation for image and form and really just word choice in trying to convey an idea or feeling. I think writers can learn a lot from being exposed to other genres that they don’t work in. I also really like reading personal essays, and that feels more like something I could “branch out” to more so than poetry. Last summer, I wrote a ten-page essay for an anthology, and while it took me two months to finish it and it was very much of a challenge, in the end, it was something that I really enjoyed. Because of that I wouldn’t mind trying to write more essays.

    Gary Eldon Peter is the author of two works of fiction: “Oranges,” a linked short story collection, and the novel “The Complicated Calculus (and Cows) of Carl Paulsen,” 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. Peter’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals 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. For more information:

    Michele Karlsberg Marketing and Management specializes in publicity for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, Karlsberg celebrates 33 years of successful marketing campaigns. For more information:

    Published on July 28, 2022