There are two things PJ Peterson had to do — be a doctor and write. After a 37-year medical career in Longview, Peterson is now focusing on her other passion.
Peterson self-published her first novel “Blind Fish Don’t Talk: A Julia Fairchild Mystery” at the end of October. She wrote the novel more than 10 years ago but picked it up again in the past year.
“This is the first year I can say in my Christmas letter I got it published,” said Peterson, 70. “I’m really proud I can say that.”
The murder mystery follows Dr. Julia Fairchild on vacation in the Caribbean, where she discovers a dead scuba diver. The death is ruled an accident, but Julia believes there’s more to the story.
Peterson said the novel began as a journal entry from her own trip to the island of Saint Martin.
“It just became a story,” she said. “It wanted to be bigger than a journal entry.”
Peterson said she has liked writing since she was a child. She is a fan of mystery authors Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich.
Many things that happen in the book happened to Peterson, she said. For events she had to make up, she said she pictures herself in the situation and writes it so readers can believe it’s as real as possible. Some characters seem to come out of nowhere, Peterson said.
Peterson said she enjoyed writing the book, but publishing it was the difficult part.
Ten years ago, she noted, self-publishing was not as popular or accessible as it is now. Traditional publishing didn’t appeal to her at the time.
“It was daunting, so I put it away,” Peterson said.
The idea to self-publish came to her five years ago. While on vacation in Italy, standing in line at the Vatican, she and another author talked about writing. The woman told Peterson about a website (now owned by Amazon) to help authors publish their books.
Peterson said she checked it out but put the project down again until earlier this year. After reading an article about a local woman who self-published multiple books, Peterson, now retired, decided to pursue publication.
The first step was transferring her manuscript off of a floppy disc. Peterson then read her book for the first time in 10 years.
“It was fun to go back and read it,” Peterson said. “I did a little editing but didn’t change the essence of the book.”
She sent the story to a friend, her sister and an editor to read over. A company formatted the manuscript, and after picking out a cover, it was ready to go. One click and the e-book was available. The next day, paperbacks could be ordered.
Peterson is donating all the royalties from her book to Longview’s St. Rose Catholic School and Seton Catholic College Prep in Vancouver.
Now, about a month after publishing book one, Peterson is hard at work on her second Julia Fairchild novel. This one takes place on a dance tour in Germany, Amsterdam and other locations. Like “Blind Fish Don’t Talk,” this story draws from Peterson’s own travels.
“Julia Fairchild likes to go on adventures,” Peterson said.
Peterson sets aside time to write every day. She said the second book will take less time to publish than the first and should be out by next summer.
“I have four books in my mind,” she said. “After that, who knows.”