The Incredibly Comedic Book of Art LaVigne
Wednesday, May 30, 2001 2:11:00 PM
by A. H. LaVigne
|Hagerstown Storyteller''s First Novel Blends
Humor, Sci-Fi, and the Hazards of Coffee Addiction
by Nathan Oravec - Picket News
Peter Black hates his job. A computer analyst for FasSoftware, Inc., a business producing bookkeeping software for the fast food industry, his days are spent in a tiny cubicle, fixing the erroneous coding errors of his higher-ups. Peter hates his cubicle. What's more, he hates his coworkers. He hates the Yugo that he drives to work in every morning and he hates the oatmeal he eats routinely for breakfast. If he could only get a good cup of Colombian coffee - freshly brewed - maybe things would look up. He settles for instant, though, because brewing fresh himself would require way too much effort.
Peter hates everything about his boring, tedious life - but he deals because what he's got, at least, is predictable. Peter likes predictability.
In his dreams, however, Peter Black leaves the predictability, the oatmeal, the instant coffee, behind - as his unconscious alter ego, the dashing Blake Rock, takes over. A super-secret-agent, Blake is the epitome of everything Peter is not: brave, handsome, daring and quick with a pun to fit any tight situation and impending-Armageddon.
Peter likes his dreams. He likes Blake Rock. That is, until his real-world self is one day drawn into an adventure of proportions that even the infamous Blake might find hard to believe - a conspiracy involving spies, a comely cohort, alien arms trading, and a coffee-maker that his Aunt Vicky had given him for Christmas last year.
Peter's life is about to change.
Peter hates change.
So begins the recently published, The Incredibly Boring Life of Peter Black, the premiere novel from Hagerstown storyteller, Art LaVigne. A computer specialist for Allegheny Power, a square-dance caller, a husband, a father of two, and now - a published author, Art says he never intended to be a writer. According to him, as a matter of fact, the book was written out of boredom.
"I've never had any writing classes. I'm not even a big reader," explains LaVigne. One day, however, while seated at his computer, with nothing productive to accomplish, an idea was born. "I thought, 'I guess I'll write a book,"' he says. And that was that. "There was no prior planning involved."
LaVigne began work on an outline. He created characters and their individual backgrounds, a timeline and a plot were loosely structured, and soon - he started to write.
"At about the end of the first chapter," he says, "I threw everything out." LaVigne's characters, he discovered, were beginning to almost talk for themselves - and he was surprised at what they were saying.
"It was as if they had minds of their own."
LaVigne was hooked. "One night, my wife and I were in bed and I said, 'Hey dear, I'm writing a book.' And she said - "Whatever, Art."
Realization would set in, however, when LaVigne began submitting chapters for his wife, Amy, to read.
As months went on, the book became very important to LaVigne, and he would find himself staying up later and later to work on his story.
One day, during a telephone conversation, LaVigne's sister, living in New England, expressed interest in reading his story. LaVigne obliged, and shortly after his mailing it to her, and her reading it, his sister would call back with a suggestion: She knew of a small publishing company. Sweetgrass Fiction, based in her area - why not send them a copy and see what happens.
Why not, indeed?
LaVigne mailed what he had - approximately half of a manuscript to Sweetgrass. His first response from the company was the book's first chapter - mailed back to him and covered, top to bottom, in red ink. Formatting, grammar, capitalization, indentation, and spelling errors were all marked in red.
"It was kind of like a "How dare you?" from the publisher, says LaVigne. It wasn't a rejection, per se but rather a "You've gotta learn how to write."
LaVigne became discouraged and depressed over the response - they were feelings short-lived, though, for the next day he received a call from Sweetgrass. They loved the story. With some editorial guidance, The Incredibly Boring Life of Peter Black, would see print.
With his adventure half-complete, LaVigne began pursuing the remainder of his story, sending Sweetgrass, at times, a chapter a week.
His daughter, Sondra, 12, he says, would often provide as an editorial consultant. "She was one of my biggest helps. She was great with continuity, and she caught a lot of mistakes."
Sondra also suggested that LaVigne write under the name A.H. LaVigne, a la J.K. Rowlings.
Soon the book was coming together nicely. But although he still had a rough plan in mind for Peter Black's escapades, one element remained elusive.
"Everything had fallen into place except the ending," says LaVigne. "I wanted Peter to save the day, but I wanted it to be unexpected."
The lack of an conclusion was beginning to irritate the author, when one morning, while lying in bed - it came to him out of the blue, and he began to laugh hysterically. Although not disclosing the ending in the interview, LaVigne says it is probably his favorite part of the book.
With an end in sight, the exciting tale of Peter Black's boring life was soon complete. LaVigne had started writing in April of 2000. The book was finished in October of the same year.
The Incredibly Boring Life of Peter Black was released in February 2001.
The book is a comedy, says LaVigne, who describes his hero Peter as "a coffee achiever. He'll do anything to get a good cup of coffee." Peter's alter ego, Blake Rock, is just the opposite as his mundane counterpart. "He's James Bond times ten:"
The madcap adventures of both, and the crucial coffee maker that ties the whole thing together, share the dry wit of fellow sci-fi/humor series such as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, of which LaVigne is a fan.
"It's the only book series I can say that I've read completely."
"I'm a big Douglas Adams fan," he continues. "I was definitely inspired by it."
But although Peter Black shares similar attributes to the genre favorite, as well as others such as the British television series Red Dwarf, LaVigne says the story is all his own.
"That's my type of humor. It's my own style, but it definitely has Brit-wit qualities."
The Incredibly Boring Life of Peter Black is currently available in bookstores such as Barnes & Nobles and on Amazon.com, as well as nearly 30 additional on-line stores. Borders in Hagerstown is slated to carry it as well, with LaVigne appearing for a signing at the store in July.
As far as further Peter Black adventures are concerned, LaVigne says there are plans in the works. "The first leaves enough doors open for a sequel," he says.
For the time being, LaVigne is just enjoying his non-boring life with wife, Amy and his children, Sondra and Randy, 11. He is also simply pleased with the fact that he wrote a book in the first place.
"The most amazing thing to me is that I actually wrote it. If someone would have told me a year and a half ago that I would have written a novel - I would have laughed in their face."
"I still don't feel like an author," he continues. "I'm a storyteller. I like to tell stories, and I thought this was a good story to tell."
For more information on The Incredibly Boring Life of Peter Black, visit the web site,
The Incredibly Boring Life of Peter Black - Official Website