Peter James’ twelfth novel featuring Roy Grace, Dodelijke Affaire, was published in October. Plenty of reason to ask him a few questions. Karin Hazendonk got in touch with him and you can read his answers below!
If there are people who have never heard of you, who’s Peter James? Can you describe yourself in a few words and explain them?
Author – I’ve written 30 novels – I write a detective series of crime thrillers as well as standalones dealing with issues from genetic engineering to the search for proof of god. I am published in 37 languages with world sales of 30 million books and I have had 12 consecutive UK number 1 best sellers. My most recent novel Need You Dead has just spent 3 weeks at number 1!
Animal lover – my wife Lara, and I share mutual passion for animals and we have a growing menagerie at home. The head count right now is three dogs, five alpacas, three emus, eleven hens, fifteen Indian Runner ducks, and about 200 carp. One of the Indian Runner ducks we hatched in our house last month after our dog Oscar came in with a chirping egg in his mouth!
Racer – I have always been a passionate ‘ petrol head’ and
I enjoy racing some of the classic cars I own – especially a 1965 BMW 1800, a 1958 Abarth, a 1958 A35, and I am looking forward to my wife and I racing our latest acquisition – a 1965 Mini. I am hoping next year to do a Classic car race at Zandvoort in your country!
Foodie – I’ve always had a huge interest in food and, of course, wine. I think there are few lovelier things in the world than to sit at a table with either my wife or with friends of ours sharing conversation over food and wine. I think it is one of the absolute and sacrosanct definitions of civilization. We say that the English eat to live but the French live to eat – I think there must be a lot of French in my blood! My interest in food and wine has led to me writing a monthly column in a magazine for the last 4 years about food, wine and another of my loves which is travel.
You’ve already written quite a few books with Roy Grace in the lead. How do you keep it interesting for yourself to always return the same protagonist? Do you have a certain number of books in mind with Roy or do you see where he is leading you?
I am captivated by the world of the police. Nobody sees more of human life than a cop. 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 and I will continue to write my Roy Grace novels as long as my readers want to read them!
Where do you get your inspiration to write a book that is so widely read worldwide? Do you feel a bit of pressure while writing or do you not feel that at all?
I get my ideas from a wide variety of sources. My days out with the police as I mention above, and along with this, 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!
How do you write? Are you alone or do you not matter where you are? Do you have music and if so, which one? (Do you have a favorite writing chair like Roald Dahl?)
I write six days a week from 6pm to 9:30pm. This is a habit I got into when I was still producing films. I think a routine is essential if you want to take writing seriously. Thanks to laptops, my office has long ceased to be a concrete space and I can write on the move. I actually write really well on airplanes, in the back of a car and in hotel rooms. I have a stiff drink – often a vodka martini, with four olives, put on music and get in a zone. I really love this time of the day. I love to listen to music while I write and I have a huge playlist, so here is a fragment of what inspires me.
Van Morrison: Queen Of The Slipstream. I’m a huge fan – but only recently got to know and love his work. This is my favourite of his tracks.
The Kinks: Mr Pleasant. My favourite band ever! And this is one of the nastiest songs ever written – I love it!
The Proclaimers I’m Gonna Be (500 miles). This is such a great get-up-and-go song! If I’m tired this wakes me up!
Marla Glen: The Cost Of Freedom. I love this woman’s extraordinary voice. I very often start my evening’s writing to this song.
Rod Stewart: Rhythm Of My Heart. Rod’s voice and music has something infectious about it. He fires me up.
The Hooters: Satellite. I love their American Anthems album. Great road music.
Dire Straits: Romeo and Juliet. I love this song, it has a real feel-good factor.
Louis Armstrong: Wonderful World. I love his voice, it stirs my soul.
Eagles: Peaceful Easy Feeling. Great rousting music.
Passenger: Let Her Go. Passenger is my most recent find – I love his music – and he’s from Roy Grace’s Brighton!
Are you afraid of something? Do you process those fears in your books?
Many things! I’m scared of heights, and I am deeply claustrophobic – although that claustrophobia helped a lot in writing my first Roy Grace novel, Dead Simple, in which one of the characters is buried alive in a coffin in remote woods after a stag night prank goes wrong, with everyone who knows where he is – bar one person – dead in a car wreck. And that one person has a very good reason to keep quiet. I had myself put into a coffin, and the lid screwed down, for thirty minutes, as part of my research. It was the most terrifying thirty minutes of my life!
What makes a thriller a good thriller?
I think that we read books in order to find out what happens to characters we meet early in the story and engage with. The elements that make a really great thriller are believable characters and, as part of that, a truly scary villain, twists that the reader just does not see coming, constant tension, and an ending that makes you punch your fist in the air for joy.
You regularly join a police patrol service. How was that the very first time?
It was an absolute eye opener to see the complete variety that a police officer can see in a single day. From a sudden infant death to an elderly couple swindled out of their life savings to a horrific domestic fight and then to a grim and tragic road traffic death.
Some of your Roy Grace books are performed as a play at a theatre. Can you decide who will get the lead roles? Are you involved with it?
I am completely involved with all stages – it was a condition of my agreeing to have my books adapted and I enjoy the process.
You have also won a number of awards this year. Do you have a nice trophy cabinet at home and do you still find it an honor to win those prizes?
I have my awards very proudly displayed at home, it is an immense thrill to win any award whether at home or overseas and I never ever get blasé or used to it. I feel immensely lucky to have so many enthusiastic readers around the world who have put me forward for so many of these.
Do you have a favorite book of yourself? Which book are you most proud of?
‘Dead Simple’ because it was the first break-through book for me. The house on cold hill is a stand-alone ghost story.
Will there be another ghost story or another stand alone in the future?
I am writing the sequel to ‘The House On Cold Hill’ right now, and next Autumn my latest stand alone called ‘Absolute Proof’ will be published. I have been working on this novel for 25 years and the heart of the story is a thriller about what would happen if someone credible claimed to have absolute proof of God’s existence. The story came out of a phone call I had in 1983 from an elderly man telling me that God was concerned about the state of the world and felt that if mankind could have faith in Him reaffirmed it would steer us back onto an even keel and he had given this man 3 pieces of information nobody else on Earth knows and told him there was an author called Peter James who would help him get taken seriously.
By 2015, these were your favorite books: Alex of Pierre Lemaitre, I’ll let you go from Clare Mackintosh, Two faces of January by Patricia Highsmith. What are your favorite books this year?
‘The Truth About The Harry Quebert Affair’ by Joel Dicker – that is my runaway favourite of the last 12 months. I really liked Susie Steiner’s ‘Missing Presumed’ and I am currently reading Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough and really enjoying this.
If someone does not know your books yet … why should someone read your books?
I try really hard to write the kind of books that I like to read myself. I think the majority of us read in bed at night, when we are tired, so I write short chapters. I try to finish every chapter with a cliff hanger, and I write always from three perspectives, to show the lives of the police the victims and the villains. I also work very hard to keep the books bang up to date with the latest advances in crime fighting that the police have, and above all, I try to make my books fun and satisfying.
Thanks so much! Great questions… here are my links if you could please include them….
My YouTube channel: www.peterjames.com/YouTube
My website: www.peterjames.com
Instagram Pets: https://instagram.com/peterjamesukpets