Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Pete Fanning

Written by D. Avery @shiftnshake

       Read my writing and see my books at

March 29, 2021

“Pal, what’re these notes here on the bar? Justice In a Bottle? That’s a good name fer a drink. RunawayBlues? That with blueberry vodka? Bet either a those’d give ya the blues if yer not careful.”

“These ain’t cocktails Kid, they’re book titles. Our guest this week come out with Justice In a Bottle in 2019; Runaway Blues was one a the good things ta come out in 2020, an now there’s Bricktown Boys. Heard tell there’s another book in the chute too.”

“Jeez, Pal, this guest is real prolific!”

“I don’t care if he’s fer lifficks er aginst lifficks, Kid. Thinkin’ we’re real lucky ta git Pete Fanning ta stop by the saloon. Hey, here he comes now. Howdy, Pete! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Hello Pal. Hello Kid.”

“Seems I seen ya ‘roun the Ranch afore, Pete.”

“Oh man, yeah, we go way back. Seven or eight years? I had some stories in Rough Writers Volume I. I still write flash fiction, sometimes respond to Charli’s prompts at Carrot Ranch. Over at the stories are usually a bit longer, 500-800 words”

“Is writing yer job or do you still fit it in on lunch breaks?”

“Writing is too much fun to be my job. Not that my real job isn’t fun, mind you. (Hi boss!) I write in the mornings and find myself reading at lunch, or at night if I can stay awake.”

“Well ya seemed ta a found some time somewheres. We was seein’ how yer on a roll!”

“I’m glad it looks that way! Timing, I suppose. I wrote Justice in A Bottle and Runaway Blues a while back, maybe in 2015. They sat for a year, as I wrote other things (coming out now), then I came back to them and changed some things. Then I fixed them again. Then, while querying, I kept on chugging along, writing new stuff, and so on…”

“What’s the most challenging part a writin’ fer ya?”

“Kid, I’d have to say it’s the getting started part. That’s the hard part. Once it gets going, it’s good.”

“Good, huh? Whut’s the easiest part a writin’?”

“The easiest part is when you fall completely into your story. When you are there. Those times when you stop and have to blink yourself out of it. Those are my favorite times.”

Heard tell ya had an aging coach tell ya once ya didn’t deserve to wear a Duke t-shirt, implied there was things ya jist couldn’t shouldn’t do. Anyone ever try to dissuade ya from writin’?”

“Ha, joke’s on the old ball coach, I’m a Virginia fan. To your question, maybe not so much dissuade but a lot of people couldn’t understand me making time to write. I remember one friend telling me, ‘You either have it or you don’t.’ Which is nonsense. Stephen King didn’t wake up one day and write Carrie. He wrote ALL THE TIME.”

 “What does a writers’ t-shirt look like? How do ya know if ya deserve to wear that one?”

“If you enjoy it, wear it. If it makes you happy to write words, build worlds, create stories, wear the air brushed, neon green hoodie that reads, WRITE STUFF. Just me? Okay cool.”

“So are ya one a them plotters, or are ya a more of a pantser?”

“Let me consult my notes to better answer this… Kidding! Pantser all the way. To a fault.”

“Pete, we ‘preciate ya comin’ by fer this innerview. We know ya been featured elsewhere, includin’ a PBS television innerview. Some folks come here an’ take the stage in our fam’ly frien’ly dinin’ area an’ others cozy up ta the bar here fer conversation.”

“This seems like a classic western saloon bar, Pal, except for the books lining the shelves.”

“Yep, Ernie stocked us with books of all sorts as well as bottles. I notice thet lots a yer short stories thet I’ve read at have a drinkin’ drunk of an adult character thet brings real tension ta the story. Not jist Troy in Bricktown Boys.”

“I feel like things happen in real life and they should be told in real life language. I get that some people might not want to read about things they disapprove of and that’s fine too. My next book, THE GIRL IN MY TREEHOUSE features two parents and a loving household, and one sheltered boy whose world changes in one magical summer.”

“They’s some incomf’terble truths in Bricktown Boys. Nuthin’ wrong with thet. How’d ya meet the characters a Bricktown Boys?

“I wrote this terrible novel one time, okay many times. But this even before Justice and Runaway Blues. The story was filled with flashbacks of the main character’s childhood. That was probably the beginnings of Sam and Tommy. Over time the story changed but the football was there, the kids too. Troy came along. Mrs. Coleman’s part grew and then I thought: Well, she’s just has to coach the team. Delia came last. She’s what I call the best kept secret of the book.”

“I liked all yer characters, well almost all the characters. They felt real.”

“Thanks Kid.”

“How long ya been working on that one, Bricktown? I feel like I seen some scenes here at Carrot Ranch in 99 words.”

“Again, the origins sat in a desk drawer for a while—years—which was good for the book because in the meantime I became a better writer. Trayvon Martin’s death hit me hard. Tamir Rice, too. I’m sure it was in the back of my mind when I came back to the story.”

“I didn’t like Troy, but know folks like ‘im, an’ thought ya dealt with ‘im kindly. I loved Mrs. Coleman! Did ya have either a them characters in yer real life ever?”

“I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood. Different races, same boat. I met some Troy’s but luckily my Dad was always around. Each kid in the book is loosely based on friends I had growing up. Mrs. Coleman is a mix of my grandmother and a few teachers and a few friends’ mothers.”

“Pete, d’ya have characters that ya jist cain’t shake even after givin’ ‘em a novel? Will there be sequels or series?”

“I have this book (Coming in July!), Fairy Dust Fumble. It’s about a clumsy middle school kid who’s cast as a fairy in a play. But when his sister actually creates a spell that turns one of his stage props magical, he starts doing all these crazy things on the football field. Well, she was too much fun so I’ve written an entire sequel with her as the main character. I’m calling it Spellbound and I’m currently pitching to my publisher.”

“We don’t doubt thet it’ll git published. Like we said, yer on a roll. Wondrin’, are ya at all worried about fame and fortune? What with bein’ on PBS already and what with Justice in a Bottle nominated fer an award.”    

“I am not. Besides, Justice is like a bridesmaid. It was a finalist in the Indies Today awards and was considered by the New York Public Library for their best of 2020 list, but my mantel isn’t exactly overcrowded with hardware. My son is proud of me and that’s pretty cool, but if I ever start thinking I’m big time I can just go change his sister’s diaper. That will take care of that.”

“Well Pete Fanning is a big time name ta us.”

“Ha! Funny because my sister started calling me Pete when I was three and it stuck. It’s what I go by and like to be called, and what my first three middle grade books are written under. Now, my publisher has asked me to take a pen name for future Young Adult releases, some of them with more mature content. I had to laugh. I’m using a pen name!”

“Well, congratulations on all a yer successes, unner any name. Thanks fer comin’ by the Saddle Up, Pete Fanning.”




Bricktown Summary:

It’s 1987 and twelve-year-old Sam Beasley only wants two things: to play football and for his mother to stop dating losers. Only there’s no money for a football team in Bricktown, while there’s an endless supply of losers for his mother to bring home.

Sam finds a friend in the elderly widow down the street. While he’s careful not to let on about his crummy home life, Mrs. Coleman always seems to know when he needs to do wash or eat a hot meal. When he mentions his football dilemma, she surprises him by offering to fund the team. It’s a dream come true, until she names the team The Gospel, declares herself head coach, and arms herself with a whistle, Bible scriptures, and a mouthful of grammar lessons. But Sam has bigger worries, like his mom’s latest loser, Troy, easily the worse one yet. As Sam’s home life spirals out of control, the boys of Bricktown become more than a football team, and football becomes more than just about winning.

The Girl in My Treehouse Summary (4/12/2021)

Only one summer sits between Matt Crosby and high school, and it feels like his middle school friends are leaving him behind. But when a comet of a girl moves in up the street, Matt discovers a side of himself that’s dying to break free and try something new.

Lia doesn’t see the Matt Crosby everyone else sees: the shy, awkward kid with the stammer, but instead a friend. With Lia, the long, summer days are action-packed with wonder. From scavenger hunts at the grocery store to midnight canoeing under the moon at Preacher Higgins’ pond. Or maybe just staring at the sky and feeling completely comfortable in his own skin. But in a small town like Maycomb, a girl like Lia doesn’t go unnoticed.

Matt’s old friends make jokes about the way Lia dresses, her hair, even her darker skin. As a correctional officer, Matt’s father has already run into Lia’s mother at the jail. But it isn’t until Matt discovers Lia sleeping in his treehouse that he realizes things might be worse for her than she’s letting on. Having found the courage to follow his heart instead of his friends, Matt realizes that somewhere along the way, he became the Matt Crosby Lia saw all along.

Author Bio:

Pete Fanning is the author of Justice in a Bottle, Runaway Blues, and Bricktown Boys. He lives in Virginia with his wife, son, newborn girl, and two very spoiled dogs. He can be found at, where he’s posted over 200 flash fiction stories. 

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via

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  1. Norah

    What a fascinating interview with Pete. It was good to learn a bit more about him and his books. They all sound like super reads.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hello Norah. I really liked Bricktown Boys and am in the middle of Girl in the Treehouse, which is also very good. The stories move along but it’s the characters- I suspect Pete is pretty fond of them too. Hmm. Think I’ll finish Treehouse this windy snowy morning.

      • Norah

        Thanks for the recommendations. I look forward to reading them too.

  2. Jules

    Pete, Kid and Pal,

    Real nice interview. I like reading that Pete knows to write what at least can be perceived as real. One encouraging teacher I had gave this advice ‘write about what you know’ – even in fiction, folks can pick up on and be a part of that. That little kernel of truth goes a long way in making the reader feel comfortable enough to want to keep reading to see how an issue is resolved.

    Continued success Pete! I agree, writing should be fun 😀

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    I just finished The Girl in My Treehouse. Awesome! Like BTB, you find you don’t want the story to end and wonder how it will and realize that it really doesn’t because the characters live on.

  4. Sarah Brentyn

    Great interview, D. Congrats (again), Pete, on the new release! ????????

  5. Pete

    Thanks, everyone! And thanks so much, D! Had a blast doing this interview, Pal and Kid are something else!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      We’re all just glad you played along, Pete. Thanks. Your books (at least the two I read) are seriously good stuff. Neither of them ended with an absolute certainty that everyone would be all right, but were certainly hopeful that they might be. Life like. Loved how all the characters learn and grow together.

  6. Ann Edall-Robson

    Pal and Kid, you have once again outdone yourselves. It’s always a pleasure to get to know the other Ranchers. And, now I have Pete’s books to add to my reading pile!

  7. suespitulnik

    Hi to Pete. It is nice to get to know you better. Thanks to Kid and Pal for interviewing you. I have read Justice in a Bottle and thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters are unforgettable!
    One question, Pete. If you are already known, why would your publisher think you need a different name? I find that confusing.
    And I agree, if writing is fun, it isn’t work…until one comes to the constant revisions..haha

    • Pete

      Ann is right, the publisher wants the YA stuff and above to be under the pen name. I pushed back, arguing that there were already some heavy topics in the other books but ultimately relented. Thanks so much for reading Justice in a Bottle!

    • Pete

      I am Pete! When I was three my sister named me Pete and a lifetime of confusion ensued.

      • Charli Mills

        Pete, my dad named me Annette and then called me Charli ever since I was a baby, so I get that lifetime of name confusion!

  8. Colleen M. Chesebro

    What a fun interview. I’ve seen Pete’s name but knew little about him. Great introduction. <3

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      He’s a long time ranch hand who’s keepin’ busy!
      Write on, Pete.
      Thanks Colleen.

  9. Charli Mills

    Good to see Pete on stage with Kid ad Pal. He’s right when he says to write all the time. We get better at writing books and can go back to that earlier material and rework it. Nothing is ever wasted. I think a lot of Pete’s themes in his short stories both 99-words and at carry over into his novels. I know that when I read from Vol. 1, his expanded story about a WWII veteran hits listeners in the heart. It’s a great example of how to expand a 99-word story. I’ve been a fan of Fanning for a long time and love seeing the fruition of his hard work and commitment to craft. Thanks, D.!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thank you Charli. It was fun to have an long time Ranch hand on stage and yes, Pete’s hard work and perseverance are paying off for him.

  10. explorereikiworld

    Lovely to know you Pete.

    Thanks for the interview D.

    Loved the peep into his work and life. xoxo

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I agree with you, it was a good peep into Pete’s world. Kid and Pal wrangled a fine interview.

  11. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View

    Great Interview I love the synopsises pete I’m going to have to add to my book list again. Thanks for the post
    Laughter is contagious. Start a pandemic

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I am certain you will enjoy these books. Thank you for coming by the Saloon.

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