Charlot King interviews International Bestselling Crime Writer Peter James...

 Interview with Peter James...

You probably already know that Peter James is a hugely popular writer, having sold over 18 million books worldwide, and these have been translated into 37 languages. So it is with great pleasure that I share this interview with the incredibly talented bestseller, Peter. I hope you enjoy!

What do you think made you start writing and why do you write? 
Peter: Ever since I was a small child I wanted to be a writer and to make films.  I wanted to entertain people but at the same time I wanted through these media to examine the world and society but I never thought I had any talent
....   My first break was when I was seventeen I won a national short story competition run by the BBC and had to read my story out on air.  I loved doing that and it made me realize that much though the printed book is the bedrock of novels, there are all kinds of other media where the written and spoken word can be used to wonderful effect.  After all long before printing was invented, stories were told and passed on orally.  Now in my work today, I find the crime novel is the best genre through which I can explore the world in which we live. 

Why do you think we all like to read stories?
Peter: People who read are, by their very nature, intelligent.  I think readers don’t just want to be entertained, but they want to read books that make them think, and which challenge them intellectually. Every detective story is a ‘puzzle’ to some extent because every major crime is a puzzle too, and what detectives do more than anything else is solve puzzles.  Readers love to
try get one step ahead of the detective, so it is the job of good detective thriller writers to keep the twists and turns coming that will surprise their readers.
At another level, people love to read to understand more about human nature.  We all want to learn more, through books, about the world in which we live and why people do the things they do.  in my view, there is no better medium than through the pages of a well-written, well-researched crime thriller.  No one sees human life in a broader perspective than a police officer during the course of a thirty-year career. They see it all:  In a single day an officer could find him or herself at a scene of domestic violence;  faced with the grim tragedy of people dying in front of them at a road accident;  attending a cot death, where the distraught parents in their hour of desperate need have to be comforted but also treated as murder suspects, because they might, just might, have murdered that baby; an elderly couple swindled out of their life savings by an online fraudster;  the scene of a horrendous murder. 
One aspect that particularly fascinates me and I think fascinates all of us is just how many of the worst violent criminals are outwardly such seemingly innocuous people. The UK’s worst ever serial killer Harold Shipman was a much-loved family doctor, who just had a penchant for killing his patients, and he murdered up to 350 of them. Ted Bundy one of the US’s worst criminals raped, murdered and butchered as many as 106 women, yet he was bright, witty, charming and had worked as a lawyer for the Republican party.
At another much deeper, subconscious level, I have a theory that we love to read crime fiction because of our survival instincts programmed into our genes.  I think it comes from the same part of our genes that causes us to rubberneck terrible car accidents.  It’s not that we are gloating about the fate of the victims, it is to see what we can learn about how that accident happened, and make sure we avoid it happening to ourselves.  When we read about brutal violence, there is the same thing going on – what can we learn to prevent this from ever happening to us our or loved ones?

Photograph of Peter James book signing his number one bestseller DEAD IF YOU DON'T
We all remember the first record we bought. Can you remember the first book you bought?
Peter: I remember Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novel, Five Go To Treasure Island, which I read when I was about 7 or 8.  It utterly enthralled me.  Here were kids, barely older than me, spending seven days on an island on their own.  It made me feel I wanted an adventure of my own, so I pitched a tent in my parent’s garden that night and was convinced at
3am there was a murderer out in the darkness coming to get me!  I crept back inside to safety. I wrote to Enid Blyton and said that although the five of them had spent seven days on the island, none of them had gone to the lavatory in all that time, and I was very worried.  She wrote a sweet letter back saying they had gone to the loo, but she’d left those bits out as she didn’t think little boys and girls would be interested!

Can you tell us about your favourite library you used as a child? And also, can you tell
us your favourite place where do you like to read now? 
Peter: Hove library was my go-to library as a child. Now I like to read anywhere I get the chance… in my office, while travelling and in bed at night. I read a lot!

What is it about the Brighton vibe that captivates and influences your writing?
Peter: Because it is my
home town! But seriously, Brighton is the perfect place to set my crime thrillers. It has style, but beneath the surface it can be very sinister. Three chief constables have told me that Brighton’s the favourite place to live for some of the top criminals. There’s a harbour either side, ideal for importing and exporting contraband – and for a quick getaway there’s Eurotunnel and Gatwick airport as well. With two universities and its legendary reputation as a party resort, it has a massive recreational drugs market, and the antique and jewellery shops of its Lanes have been legendary in the past for fencing stolen goods.

You had the first ever ebook published in the world, which is extremely impressive. You had the foresight to see such a thing might be of interest to readers. Technology is advancing and now computers are writing novels too.  Where do you think things are headed next?
Peter: I think the next stage of technology will be wearable tech. For example, brain add-ons. The interface between us and technology will become more joined up and I think we will be adding technology to our bodies, for instance we may add brain capacity and become a little bionic. I don’t however, see the nature of story-telling fundamentally changing and at this point I have no interest in reading a book written by a computer!
1993 floppy disc edition of the novel HOST by Peter James. The first ever ebook
Tell us about the latest book just out, DEAD IF YOU DON'T  It has already had fantastic reviews! No surprise there whatsoever. Did the story come to you easily this time? 
Peter: Thank you. I love books that have tight time frames and I thought it would be a real challenge to write a novel set over 24 hours. One of the best scenarios for this is kidnap because the majority of kidnaps are resolved extremely quickly, often within hours. The longer they go on the less likely a good outcome is. I didn’t manage 24 hours but most of the action takes place over 36!

Is there anything you can tell us about what you are writing at the moment and what’s coming? 
Peter: I am now over 100 pages into the 15th Roy Grace book which will come out next May. On October 4th ABSOLUTE PROOF will be published – this is a standalone thriller that I have been working on since 1989 about what would happen if someone credible had absolute proof of God’s existence. Next year, I have a stage adaptation of a ghost story I wrote called THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL, which will be on a nationwide tour of the UK from January. And in Autumn 2019 the sequel to THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL will be published - I am in the process of editing that now!
New cover of ABSOLUTE PROOF which will be published on October 4th this year. Peter is very excited about this book and has been researching it for decades!
This is a bit tangential to writing, but I see that you have a menagerie of animals at home, and it is clear that you care a lot about animal welfare. If animals could talk, what do you think they’d say to us first? And what importance, do you think, should we put on the animals around us?
Peter: I do care a great deal for animals. My wife and I have dogs, alpacas, emus, ducks, chickens and fish and find them incredibly normalizing to be around. I remember waking up on the morning after the Manchester bombings I went to feed our animals and I was thinking what a calming effect they had on me on such a bleak morning. They can’t talk but they do communicate in other ways and who are we to say that that is less intelligent than the way we communicate?

I think if they could talk they would ask why we obsess so much about material things. I always wonder how smart they are, I love the line… sometimes when I am playing with my cat I wonder if it is not my cat who is playing with me!
Peter and Lara with their dogs on their wedding day. How smart they all look! If you want to see more photographs of the animals Peter and Lara share their home with just click on Peter's Instagram

For more about Peter, check out his YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and main Instagram sites.

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Charlot x

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