Friday, July 29, 2011

The Novel Road Interview: Peter James

Product Details
Book launch
November 22, 2011 
   Everything he touches turns to gold. Yet the gold is a result of what he has mined through hard work, innovative thinking, and a no holds barred willingness to go all in.
   My guest today has lived life with a zest that doesn’t appear to be waning anytime soon. Peter James is an international bestselling author, writing crime thrillers that have his readers turning pages slowly, as if peering around the corner to a darkened, foreboding street knowing a nemesis is there. Yes, he’s that good.
   His characters are sound. Built with the brick and mortar of his experiences with the police departments of Britain, his iconic character Roy Grace, has helped make his 21 novels some of the most read of their kind.  
Product Details  I normally have a bit added here from a guest’s website. But Peter has such an extensive and interesting bio, I’m just going to post a link here so you can go to his site and revel as I did, on this amazing man’s adventures and accomplishments.



Praise for "Dead Like You" - “It’s a remarkably inventive story of sexual obsession, possibly the most engrossing thriller since Thomas Harris’s - Silence of the Lambs.” Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post


I’m pleased to welcome bestselling author Peter James to The Novel Road…
Image of "Peter James"
Peter James
Me: As I read through your incredible biography, I found you’re not only a bestselling British novelist, car enthusiast, and manor house owner, but a movie producer and Internet entrepreneur as well. What is the source of your Midas touch?
Peter: I've always been very driven.  I guess I get that energy from my mother, a fashion design student who arrived as a Jewish refugee from Vienna in Dover in 1938 with nothing but the clothes she stood up in and a valise full of gloving leathers, and built up a hugely successful business - gaining the Royal Warrant as The Queen's Glovemaker, and once being Christened by Vogue as "The Colour Queen Of England."   One of her brothers has similar energy, becoming one of the first computer pioneers in the world.

Me: You have written 21 novels (20 million copies sold), thrilling your readers in the UK and around the world. Many novelists are bound by the borders of their countries. How do you explain your global appeal?
Peter: I think to some extent is because I write "thrillers" with universal themes.  I guess it helps also that Brighton features strongly in all the books, and is an iconic city around the globe.
Go to fullsize image
image courtesy
of
enterstageright.com
Me: Admit it! You are a car nut, Bentleys, Astons, Jaguars and a Boss Mustang. There is a rumor going round that your favorite car is actually a 1982 Yugo hatchback and that you and Jeremy Clarkson are the founding members of “Team Yugo UK”. Care to comment?
Peter: Ha-ha re the Yugo!  Yes, I am a total car nut, and have been since I first got behind the wheel of a car (my dad's Standard Vanguard, in 1953, when we were visiting some farmer neighbours.  I let the handbrake off, accidentally and the car rolled into the duck pond.  My first car was actually quite staid - a 1929 Rolls Royce Hearse, which I was planning to turn into a camper van, but it frightened my mother and she bribed me to get rid of it with an MGA, my first sports car.

Product DetailsMe:  In an interview with M Magazine (November, 2010), one of your 5 life lessons is “Pity the man who dies with all his music still within him”.  Talk about life experience. How important it is to an author?
Peter: I think it is the most single important aspect:  I believe readers, just as I do, want more than just a thrilling story when we read a novel.  I want to be gripped, but I want to learn something new about some aspect of this world in which we live, or the human condition.  I don't think it is any coincidence that the authors of so many books in the bestseller lists are in their 60, 70s, 80s and 90s - it is the life experience of the author that the reader connects with most, at a subliminal level.

Me: Roy Grace, is a character you’ve developed in depth. When did you know you had a character that would live on in more of your novels?
Peter: It was when emails from readers started flooding in after the first, Dead Simple.   I had a whole raft from women telling me that Roy Grace as the first fictional detective they had ever wanted to sleep with!  I knew then that somehow I had reached something in people with this character.

Looking Good DeadMe: Your newest book, “Dead Like You”, was inspired by a true crime story that happened in Rotherham, England in the 1980s. Have you drawn on other real life instances in your novels?
Peter: Yes, Looking Good Dead resulted from a day, some years ago, when a police surgeon asked me to take a look at some video footage, seized in a raid by Sussex Police, with my film maker hat on, and tell him whether I thought it was a scene being acted or was real:  It was a young woman being stabbed to death on a cross.  I told him if it was faked, she should win an Oscar.  No doubt at all in my mind it was real.  He explained that it was a "snuff movie" and that people paid vast sums to see people killed to order like this.  Also Dead Tomorrow resulted from a true story I was told by a TV documentary maker about the world trade in human organs.

Me: Lunch with you and any author you choose, from throughout history or today, and why.
Peter: I would choose Graham Greene.  He wrote what I consider to be the greatest crime novel of all time, with the best first line and best last line, Brighton Rock.  It is the novel that made me want to become a crime novelist with my books set in Brighton.  I am curious about his fascination with Catholicism, and even more so with his obsession for playing Russian Roulette.   I find it incredible that one of our greatest novelists could have shot himself dead at any moment.
Go to fullsize image
image courtesy
of
thelifeofluxury.com
Me: This question, courtesy of Jeff Hall : “I'm a shortstory-ist. Writing a novel is like a crazy long marathon, only harder. How do you maintain a clear sense of that first passion that inspired you throughout a lengthy word journey?”
Peter: Well, a large vodka martini at 6pm every evening during the writing process helps!  Seriously, I love writing - I'm lucky enough to be able to make a living out of it, but I would still write if I wasn't paid (but don't tell my publisher!!!)  I also love the research - I spend a day a week out with the police, sometimes getting into real adventures with them, and I love that.

View Image
coutesy of
wickedlocal.com
Me: Publishing is going through an evolution right now. Talk about how this has or will affect you. New authors?
Peter: I think the electronic publishing revolution is incredibly exciting.  In 1994 Penguin published my novel Host as "the world's first electronic novel" and for some years after I became a media authority on new technology and the future of the novel.  I had a tweet a couple of days ago from a soldier just off to Afghanistan, telling me he had a complete set of my books loaded into his Kindle and will take them with him out on ops - he could never have carried that number of physical books.   Of course the elephant in the room is piracy.  We've all seen the decimation of the music industry, but at least the publishing trade has that to learn from.  I think one consequence of what has happened in publishing is that it has become much more polarized:  There is very little room for "mid-list" authors to thrive at present - you're either a bestselling author or you are in the void, and that is going to make it increasingly harder to any author who doesn't write what publishers perceive as a potential instant bestseller to get published.

Me: Tell us about your agent and why the match is perfect?
Peter: I first met my amazing agent, Carole Blake,  about 18 years ago at a publishing party - when I was then represented by another agent.  She told me she was a huge fan and that she had bought each of my books herself in hardback.  She is a total ball of energy, works harder than any agent I know, and she has a tremendous full-service agency with a strong film and TV side too.

Product DetailsMe: How much author editing is too much? Where should an author stop editing before submission?
Peter: I think the biggest danger is the day an author stops listening to his/her editor:  We all are much too close to a finished manuscript to be able to look at it objectively - it is hard enough to proof read a letter we're writing!  We need someone objective and distanced, whose judgment we trust, to tell us candidly what works, what doesn't and where the pace slackens.

Me: You wake up one day and decide to change direction. Give me the subject and overview of a Peter James non-fiction book.
Peter: Right now I would love to write a non-fiction book about my experiences out with different police forces around the world.  I'd also like to write nonfiction about the supernatural, which I used to research in depth many years back.  I also very much want to write about all the developments in science and technology that will change the future of the human race in ways we can barely even begin to imagine.
******************************************
I'd like to thank Peter for doing this interview... and letting me drive his Bentley Continental GT, though he could have told me it wasn't meant for off-road. Cheers!
View Image
Image courtesy of
conceptcarz.com