ROCKVILLE — Silver Spring resident Peter Rouleau, 36, recently published the book “Masquerade Ball,” a collection of short stories, many of which are set in Montgomery County.
In it, Rouleau explores “deception of how little we know about people we see day to day.”
Rouleau said the inspiration for many of the stories comes from his five years working as a reporter for the Montgomery County Sentinel. Many of the stories are set within the county. One story takes place at the County Agricultural Fair, which the Sentinel has covered extensively.
Another story features a college student and an elderly movie theater employee bonding over “Star Wars.” The inspiration came from conversations he had with friends who were fans of the original Star Wars trilogy, and recently took their children to see the film.
He said few people converse with the person who takes their ticket at the movies. “It’s just, ‘Theater Four, over there,’” he said.
Just before Rouleau’s hiatus from fiction writing, he wrote and directed a play as a college student. Afterward, he said he felt “burned out” in terms of creativity.
Rouleau wrote his first novel as an eighth-grader, finishing it in 1995 at age 13. His English teacher at Julius West Middle School, Marcie Katz, agreed to proofread it.
Katz said, “I tell people this story over and over again: how simply amazing it was to me that he wrote a novel in the eighth grade!”
Katz, now retired, who taught in Montgomery County Public Schools for 25 years, sent the novel to a literary agent, but no one published it.
Katz, an avid fiction reader, said she supports Rouleau’s decision to have the stories in “Masquerade Ball” take place in non-fictional locations.
“It becomes much more real –they [the authors] don’t have to come up with a bunch of details to make sure it’s consistent. ‘Oh yeah, that place on Rockville Pike, I’ve been there, I know just the stretch he’s taking about.’”
Readers who are not familiar with the location of the stories will also have an easier time following the story if the author wrote about an existing location.
“If something’s real and you’re just describing what’s real, I think people can usually relate to that; they can figure that out,” Katz said.
It also allows authors to focus their attention on other elements of the story rather than making sure the setting is consistent, she added.
Katz said she noticed an improvement in Rouleau’s ability to grab readers' attention and encourage them to keep reading. “He matured; he has much more …[of] a wealth of worldly knowledge that he didn’t have in the eighth [grade].”
He has been writing the short stories over the past eight years. In 2010, his efforts toward publishing a couple of short stories in print had failed, then a friend suggested he try having his work published online instead. Then, Rouleau came up with idea of publishing several short stories in a collection, leading him to write additional stories to complete “Masquerade Ball.”
Rouleau currently covers news concerning the City of Gaithersburg for the Montgomery County Sentinel, and has written for the paper for the past five years.