Author Peter Rock Rock will mine his career during library luncheon
What: Friends of the Park City Library author luncheon with Peter Rock
When: 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17
Where: Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge, 7600 Royal St. Suite 112
How much: $40
Purchase point: Park City Library information desk, 1255 Park Ave.
Peter Rock has the unique opportunity to be the first speaker at the Friends of the Park City Library’s annual author luncheon to have one of his books turned into a movie.
Rock’s 2009 novel, “My Abandonment,” was the basis of Debra Granik’s feature drama “Leave No Trace,” which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.
The story is about a girl and her father who lived off the grid for many years in a wilderness preserve near Portland, Oregon, and their struggles to reassimilate into society.
Rock, who will speak on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Lodge, will talk about his book, and the process of seeing it adapted into a film.
“I’m very grateful that it was turned into a film, but at the same time it was also disorienting to see something that I’ve imagined reimagined by someone else in a different form of communication,” Rock said. “When someone writes a book, the author spends years and years imagining who the characters are — not just what they look like, but everything about them. To see someone else’s reading of your book filtered through actors, music and other things is really different.”
Rock, who was born and raised in Salt Lake City before moving to Oregon in 1986, will talk about his collaboration with Granik and screenwriter Anne Rosellini and about the nature of inspiration.
“My book was inspired by a true story that I read about in a newspaper that told of the discovery of (the) father and daughter,” he said. “The film was inspired by both my book and the newspaper story, but it was also inspired by the weather (during the shoot) and actors that were part of the filming.”
The father and daughter were discovered living close to where Rock lives now, and he was intrigued by his community’s twofold reaction.
“The first reaction was a real sense of wonder and appreciation that these people were living this way and seemed so happy,” Rock said. “The daughter, by all reports, was ahead of where she should have been in school, and she and her father didn’t want to be apart from each other.”
The second reaction was from well-meaning residents who felt the two would be more happy living like they believed the rest of society is supposed to live, Rock said.
“They were relocated to a home,” he said. “The father was given a job on a ranch and the daughter was enrolled in middle school. But it turned out that they couldn’t live that way.”
The second newspaper article Rock read was about how, one night, the father and daughter disappeared without a trace.
“I waited for a third article to tell me where they went and what became of them, but the article was never written,” he said. “So, I, being a fiction writer, started to think about what could’ve happened to them.”
In doing so, Rock asked himself where the two had come from and how they lived in the wilderness for all those years.
“I tried to figure out how to tell the story and maintain the sense of wonder and happiness, because being homeless is a gritty experience,” he said. “Then I decided to write the story from the girl’s perspective.”
Rock also wrote his own insecurities into the novel’s themes, which included his anxiety of becoming a parent. He had begun writing the book before his 12-year-old daughter was born.
“I write best when I’m pretty confused about what I’m doing in my personal life, and once a book is done, I step back and see what I was going through at the time,” he said. “So, when I look at the book now, I see it as a testament of what I was feeling about the kind of father would I be to my daughter and what kind of advice I could give her about living in the kind of world we live in.”
Writing has always been interesting to Rock.
“My dad read to me while I was growing up — Wizard of Oz, Chronicles of Narnia and Watership Down,” he said. “These stories were crucial to my family, and our ways of communicating as a family.”
Rock decided to become a writer while in high school.
“I was a good liar,” he gleefully said. “In a super pretentious way, I liked the idea of becoming a writer like Richard Brautigan or Jack Kerouac. I looked at their lives and thought that’s the desperado or maverick lifestyle that I felt suited to do.”
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