Q: Hi Mr. Peter thank you for accepting my interview request. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
(from Mr. Peter’s website)
An International Bestselling Thriller Writer
11 consecutive Sunday Times No 1’s, published in 37 languages, as well as being a New York Times bestseller. His DS Roy Grace crime novels have sold 18 million copies worldwide. Prior to becoming a full-time author, he was responsible for 25 movies. In 1994 Penguin published his novel, Host, on two floppy discs as the world’s first electronic novel. His novels have won numerous awards, most recently the coveted 2016 CWA Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence, and he was publicly voted by WHSmith readers The Best Crime Author Of All Time.
Born in Brighton, England, Peter was educated at Charterhouse, where he failed maths ‘O’ Level three times and left with 3 lowly grade “E”s in A-Levels. Chiding him for a series of misdemeanours his headmaster’s parting words were: “James, if you come back to me in twenty years time and tell me your schooldays were the happiest days of your life I shall consider you to have failed.” 40 years on, James accepted an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Brighton, saying: “I guess I am living proof of Oscar Wilde’s maxim that nothing worth knowing can be taught!”
After two years at Ravensbourne film school, working for a spell as Orson Welles’s house cleaner, his first writing job was in Toronto, Canada, on the daily kids television show, Polka Dot Door. He co-founded Canada’s largest film production company in the 1970s. Their films included The Neptune Factor starring Ernest Borgnine and the comedy which Peter wrote and produced – Spanish Fly starring Terry-Thomas and Leslie Philips – reviewed by critic Barry Norman as “The least funny British funny film ever made, and undoubtedly the worst British film since the Second World War.
His first novel, spy thriller Dead Letter Drop was published in 1981, but it was his 4th, Possession, in 1988 that gave him his first chart success. He continued to alternate writing novels with film production until 2005 when he became a full time novelist. His best known film is The Merchant Of Venice, starring Al Pacino & Jeremy Irons.
Three of his novels have been adapted for television, and his Roy Grace series is currently in development. His novella, The Perfect Murder and his novel, Dead Simplehave both been smash hit stage plays and his third play, Not Dead Enough, opens in January 2017.
He is patron of many charities, and in 2012, in recognition of his help in raising awareness of “Date rape”, he was presented with the Sussex Police Outstanding Public Service Award.
When he was fifteen after being spotted racing, he was offered to train with the British Olympic Ski Team. He now races classic cars and has competed in many events, including the past three Goodwood Revival meetings, and in 2013 had a lucky escape in a massive accident at Brands Hatch.
He lives in Notting Hill, London and near Brighton, Sussex with his wife Lara and menagerie including two dogs, five alpacas, seven chickens and a psycho cat.
Q:What were you like at school?
-Rebellious and generally pretty naughty, I didn’t really focus on my studies, I was more interested in smoking, playing poker and chasing girls.
Q: What are your ambitions in your writing career?
-I have a big unrequited ambition…. To be No 1 simultaneously on the UK Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller lists in the same week. It hasn’t happened yet, but it is getting closer….!
Q:Was there a particular Book/ Author that inspired you to write?
-When I was 14 I read Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock and this book totally changed my life. It is quite simply the book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer, the first time I read it, as a teenager. It is also the inspiration behind my setting the Roy Grace series in Brighton. This timeless novel is both a thriller and a crime novel, although police play a small part and the story is almost entirely told through the eyes of the villains and two women who believe they can redeem them. Greene has a way of describing characters, in just a few sentences, that makes you feel you know them inside out and have probably met them, and his sense of “place” is almost palpable. It is for me an almost perfect novel. It has one of the most grabbing opening lines ever written (Hale knew, within thirty minutes of arriving in Brighton, that they meant to kill him.”), and one of the finest last lines – very clever, very tantalizing and very, very “noir” – yet apt. Green captures so vividly the dark, criminal underbelly of Brighton and Hove, as relevant now as when the book was first written, and the characters are wonderful, deeply human, deeply flawed and tragic. And yet, far more than being just an incredibly tense thriller, Greene uses the novel to explore big themes of religious faith, love and honour.” And additionally, a bonus, It is also unique for being one of the few novels where the film adaptation is so good it complements rather than reduces the book. But it is not just Brighton Rock – I learn so much from Green’s writing. I don’t think any writer before or after him has been able to create such vivid characters with so few words and description.
Q:Can you give us a List of all the books you have written?
-See the books page on my website… http://www.peterjames.com/books/
Q:Where can we buy them? (Locally & Internationally)
Q:Are you working on another book at the moment?
-Yes, I’m over 300 pages into my 13th Roy Grace novel and am really enjoying it.
Q:What’s it about?
-The theme of RG 13 is what would it take to turn a normal person into a killer…
Q:Can you please tell us what genres your books are?
My Roy Grace novels are crime thrillers, my standalones are a mixture of supernatural and psychological thrillers.
Q:What draws you into those specific genres?
-I find the crime novel is the best genre through which I can explore the world in which we live.
Q:How long did your Research for the book last?
-I research my novels for many months before I start to write them and then I do constant research during the writing of each.
Q:Have you written any other novels in Collaboration with another writer?
-Yes, ‘Death Comes Knocking – Policing Roy Grace’s Brighton’. For many years David Gaylor was my principal contact in Sussex Police, working closely with me on the planning of my stories and giving me introductions to any officers he felt would be helpful to my research on each successive Roy Grace novel, to lend my books the authenticity I try hard to maintain. When he retired, I was immensely fortunate to have that baton taken on by his good friend, Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, himself a former senior homicide detective, who then became Commander of Brighton and Hove Police. Graham and I instantly hit it off and he was an invaluable help to me for several years. When he was coming up to retirement he told me he harboured ambitions to become a published author, and sent me examples of blogs he had written over the years, for me to judge his skills. Then I had a true light bulb moment. Many people had been suggesting to me, over the years, that I should write a non-fiction book about my research with the police and throughout his thirty year career, Graham had the unique experience of policing Brighton and Hove at every rank and had been involved in many of the cases that provided inspiration both for characters and for plots of my novels. He clearly had writing talent. We decided to collaborate and write a book about what it was really like to be a police officer in Roy Grace’s Brighton and it has just been published and has gone to Number 7 in the Sunday Times Bestseller list!
Q:When did you become a writer?
-I started my career writing – back in 1970 when I first arrived in Toronto, and worked for Channel 19 TV as a gofer, on the kids daily show Polka Dot Door. One day the scriptwriter was ill and the producer asked me to write the show – I ended up writing it for nearly a year. I used to sit in my flat in Toronto, staring out of the window in the morning looking a the rush hour traffic, thinking, ‘You lucky bastards, you are going to an office, you will meet other people, socialize all day…” then after 15 years in the crazy movie business, in an office, it was sheer bliss to become a full time writer. I bought a massive Georgian manor house in Sussex and for some years revelled in not having to shave in the mornings… having all day to myself… but gradually I started going nuts with the isolation. One day I found myself carrying the vacuum cleaner across the fields at lunchtime to the repair man in Hassocks in order to have someone to talk to… life as a writer is difficult and I find most full-time writers that I know are a little strange. I love the balance that I have now.
Q:Do you write Full time or Part-time?
Q:Do you have a special time to write? how is your day structured?
-My whole writing day is back to front… It is from the time when I was writing novels whilst working full time in film and television as a screen writer and producer, so I had to make my “Me time” to write. My writing day starts at 6pm in the evening, when I mix a large vodka martini, with four olives, put on some music, light up a cigar and get into a zone. I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words 6 days a week. In terms of research – a lot I do before, but then as I progress I realise there is more I need to learn, and I’m an absolute stickler for research.
Q:Where do your Ideas come from?
-I get my ideas from a wide variety of sources. I am captivated by the world of the police. Nobody sees more of human life than a cop – in a single day they can go from dealing with a cot death, to a robbery, to a tragic accident, to a suicide, to an elderly person who has been mugged. I do something with the police one day a week, on average and I get told intriguing stories and try to weave their stories into my books. The majority of my time is with the Major Crime Branch, where Roy Grace is based, in an office, or out at a crime scene, or in a briefing, or with one of the many units within it, such as the High Tech Crime Unit, the Imaging Unit, the Fingerprint unit, the Intelligence Unit, etc. Several times a year I go out with one of the local Response Units, where we can be called to anything from a minor burglary, a street fight, a domestic argument, a traffic accident or a murder. I also go out regularly with the traffic police – they are the people who actually carry out more arrests than any other police officers – because they are the ones who end up in pursuits. And it can be brilliant fun with them. I go out with the Dive team, the search specialists, the Crime Scene team, and sometimes I just sit in the office of a very senior officers as a fly-on-the-wall absorbing all that they are dealing with. I also sit in regularly on the 9.30am daily briefing at Brighton’s main police station, John Street, where all significant incidents of the past 24 hours are reported and discussed. I realise as a writer this gives me a broad scope, and along with the police my principal interests to inform my writing are science, medicine and the paranormal. I also get inspiration from articles I read in newspapers – and often from people I talk to. And of course, there is all that weird stuff that goes on inside the grey matter in my own head!
Q:How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
-I feel I have a better understanding of what I want to write and what my readers want to read.
Q:What is the hardest thing about writing?
-Avoiding millions of distractions. People often don’t realize that writing is a job.
Q:What is the easiest thing about writing?
Q:how long does it take to write one book?
-Each books takes me approximately seven months to write the first draft, then a further four months of editing processes.
Q:Do you ever get writer’s block?
-I actually believe it is a myth, and it is used as an excuse! I think it comes out of not having properly worked out an idea, and becomes a self-indulgent excuse. “Oh my dears, I have writers block….”. Writers are writers and in my view can always write, if they want to. I’ve come to a dead end sometimes during the course of writing a story, but when I’ve analysed the problem, I realised that I hadn’t thought it through. A thirty minute walk around the block or across fields with the dogs will normally do the trick!
Q:What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
-My publisher Pan Macmillan asked me, in 2001 if I was interested in creating a new fictional detective, and I was given a 2 book contract. I didn’t know if the books would be successful or not, so in ‘Dead Simple’ I planned to set up the mystery of Roy Grace’s missing wife Sandy, and then solve it in the second book ‘Looking Good Dead’. I was completely taken by surprise with the enthusiastic response by my readers to the Sandy mystery and was deluged with speculations as to what might have happened to her. Once my publishers asked me to continue the series within weeks of Dead Simple being published, I thought it would be fun to keep the Sandy missing wife back story ongoing. And now on book 13 I am still loving the Roy Grace series!
Q:Do you read much? if so who are your favorite authors?
-My favourite modern day writer is Michael Connelly.
Q:For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks, Paperback or Hard back books?
-Personally, although I have almost all of the e-reader gadgets, in general I much prefer to hold a printed book in my hand.
Q:What books are you reading at the moment?
-I’m a voracious reader, and I get through up to 300 books a year. However I only read fiction when I am not actually writing. During the writing process I read non fiction – much of it related to my research, and also poetry.
Q:Do you proofread all your books or do you get someone to do it for you?
Q:Who edited your book and how did you select him/ her?
Q:The cover really got my attention, can you tell us how it came about?
Q:Who designed your book covers?
-My publishers, with my approval
Q:Do you think that the cover plays an important role in the buying process?
-Yes it’s very important. I just love the new covers for my Roy Grace series with their neon spines!
Q:Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
-Get online – get on social media, speak to online bloggers, be visible and accessible.
Q:what are your thoughts to good and bad reviews?
-I read any constructive reviews but I try to avoid just plain nasty ones or ones that say the book arrived damaged so give it a bad review!
Q:What’s your views on Social Media for Marketing?
-As above – get online, be visible and accessible and answer your fans. They can also be very useful in terms of research… For instance, a while ago I tweeted to ask if anyone knew how to pick a lock. Someone got in touch to say they were a career burglar who had now gone straight. He told me how he imagined himself inside the lock when he was picking it and was able to see the tumblers. It was something I hadn’t thought about!
Q:Which social network worked best for you?
-Until now Facebook has worked best for me due to the amount of content I can share but I have recently launched my new YouTube channel and I see this as a huge platform for the future, I’m hugely excited about it and want to increase the awareness and excitement around crime fiction, and to help introduce new authors to the genre through my channel. http://www.peterjames.com/youtube
Q:Any tips on what to do and what not to do on social Media sites as an author?
-Be yourself, fans like to get to ‘know’ you. Try not to let it take over and distract you too much though!
Q:Did you get interviewed by Local Press/ Radio for your book launch?
Q:Is there a Marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
-Yes! My book ‘Host’ was the very first e-book and is now in the Science Museum! I’d had a lot of research help from the Computing Sciences department at Sussex University. One of the students who had been helping me rang me, very excited one day, to ask if I had ever considered publishing a book electronically, and that ‘Host’ would make the perfect vehicle because of its subject matter of the downloading of a human brain.
It was probably the fastest sell of my life to my publishers! I phoned Andy Welham, then the Marketing Director of Penguin and asked him what he thought about the idea of putting the book out in electronic formal alongside the traditional hardback. He loved it! The content of Host took up two floppy discs, and separate Mac and PC versions were made. The discs were placed inside a hard jacket that opened out, like a book. One thing that was very different was that instead of having the traditional author photograph on the jacket, there was a Quicktime video of me at the end of the book that readers could click on and get a very klunky 30 second message from me, saying I hoped they had enjoyed the book! The electronic books were priced at £10.00, which was then the same price as a hardback. We did an exclusive deal with the then bookstore chain Dillons, who bought 10,000 copies of each platform for a 30-day exclusive in the UK and then it went on general sale in the UK.
Q:Do you have a Trailer or do you intend to do one in the future?
-Here is the trailer for ‘Love You Dead’ my 12th Roy Grace novel….
Q:In what formats are your books available?
-See the books page on my website… http://www.peterjames.com/books/
Q:If you could have been the original author of any book, What would it be?
-Brighton Rock by Graham Greene!
Q:What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
-The best possible advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to read, read, read, and analyse, and write, write, write. Writing is a craft, and any craft is improved with practice. But most importantly is to read the most successful of the kind of works you would yourself like to write: So if you want to be, for instance, a crime thriller writer, read the blockbusters of the past fifty years. Analyse them, literally deconstruct them and try to figure out what made them so popular. This is what I did when I started out. I took the books I most admired, the ones I most wished I had written, and literally read them until I knew them inside out.
Q:Where do you see publishing going in the future?
-To be honest I don’t see a lot of change in the near future, people were worried about e-books but that now seems to have leveled out. I think the publishing world is very healthy and more and more international focus will happen down the line.
Q:How can Reader discover more about you and your work?
-My brand new YouTube channel: http://www.peterjames.com/YouTube
My website: http://www.peterjames.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Peter-James/e/B000APS7L4/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1469738214&sr=8-2-ent
-I have my Book review on Love You Dead please check it out.
“Thank You so Much Mr. Peter for accepting the Author Interview and again Thank you for letting me review Love You Dead hope this WON’T be the last time I would would review your book. hope we can do this again in the future. To the people who helped me to make all this possible (the review and interview) Ms. Naomi and Ms. Lara Thank you very much.”