Q&A with Michael Thomas Perone, author of "Danger Peak"
Alumni author shares inspiration and insight from his award-winning debut young adult novel
Author Michael Thomas Perone’s debut novel, Danger Peak, won numerous 2022 literary awards and honorable mentions, including a Literary Titan Gold Book Award, Fall BookFest Award, and the Firebird Book Award; it was named a finalist for the American Fiction Award.
A 1999 graduate of Loyola, Perone earned his B.A. in Communication and served as a features editor for The Greyhound. Today he works as a senior editor for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
How did you become interested in writing young adult fiction?
Even though I’m in my 40s, I tend to think like someone in junior high—that helps me put myself in the mindset of my characters.
What inspired Danger Peak?
I was inspired by three major sources: the old-school, 8-bit Nintendo game Excitebike; my many misadventures riding my bike around town with my two best friends growing up on Long Island; and, unfortunately, the death of my brother when I was 8.
Writing this book was both a love letter to my childhood and a way to reconcile the tragedy at the center of it. It was cathartic, to say the least.
Can you tell us a little about the main themes of the book—and what you hope readers take away from it?
There’s the obvious metaphor of climbing every mountain, especially since there’s a literal mountain in my story. But it’s also about dealing with and overcoming grief.
I hope my book not only inspires people to chase their dreams but to cherish the people you have in your life while they’re here. Just because someone you loved is gone doesn’t mean the love you have for that person has to be gone as well.
How does your Loyola education impact your career as a writer and editor?
Loyola taught me to be a critical thinker and not to accept everything at face value. That certainly helped when I was a critic the first few years out of college, and it’s helped in my writing; I try not to just describe things on the surface but to dig a little deeper.
What’s the greatest compliment someone can give you about your work?
The fact that they read it. Seriously, so few people read nowadays with the endless streaming options out there that I’m flattered if someone took the time to read my book.
I’ve had a few kids tell me how much they love the book and were able to relate to it, which always surprises me because it takes place decades before they were born. I guess growing up is universal, no matter when you do it.