Peter James has had a most colorful life. He is a New York Times bestseller, as well as having 11 consecutive Sunday Times No 1s, and he is published in 37 languages. His DS Roy Grace crime novels have sold 18 million copies worldwide.
His mother, Cornelia James, was Glovemaker to Her Majesty the Queen, running the business with his late father who was a chartered accountant. The firm is today run by his sister, Genevieve and her husband, and still supplies the Royal Family: www.corneliajames.com.
His first novel, Dead Letter Drop was published in 1981, and from that point until 2005, he remained a renaissance man, juggling multiple endeavors, including the aforementioned family business, film and television projects…and, of course, novels.
Q: You’ve been (more than) around the block with a lengthy career in a variety of writing (television, films, novels, stage plays and more.) If you could only pick one form of writing, which would it be and why?
A: I love writing crime and psychological thrillers because I am fascinated by human behavior. When I was a small child I always knew there were three things I wanted to do in life – write books, make films and race cars! I always felt that motor racing was too frivolous too go into as a profession and that I wanted to contribute something of value to the world. After thirty years of alternating two day jobs – writing and producing, I realized in 2005, shortly after making the film I’m most proud of, Merchant Of Venice with Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons, that actually, I much prefer writing novels. The problem with films is that they are such a collaborative process, it becomes almost like a committee, but up to 20 people who each believe it is their film! And most of those 20 normally have egos the size of aircraft carriers. When I write a novel it is just me. I don’t have to change a single word, if I choose not to (although of course I always respect my agent and my editor’s criticism).
Q: Your life experiences have been equally broad, from cleaning Orson Welles’ house, to race car driving. Given your preferred writing genre as a crime author, does your lifestyle come from your stories, or does it provide elements for your stories?
A: I think as a writer every single thing you do in life provides opportunities to draw from for both inspiration for stories and for texture. I find one joy is that it is impossible to be bored even standing in a tedious airline security queue as I’m looking around thinking ‘Ah there’s a possible future character’.
Q: Whats the worst part of being a wildly successful crime author? The part you detest the most?
A: There’s nothing that I detest. I feel the luckiest person in the world to make a living doing what I love, and to have wonderful fans. I guess if there is anything that angers me it is when a reader gives me or, any other author a 1 star Amazon review because the book arrived with the packaging damaged or some equally ridiculous complaint that has nothing to do with the content of the book! And a final thing – I guess the scariest thing about being ‘successful’ – is every time I start a new book I am terrified that is not going to be as good as the previous ones because I am determined to always try to raise the bar with each book.
Q: You failed mathematics “O-level” exams three times, and your grades in school were less than stellar. And from this you have reached a level of success many people dream of, but rarely achieve. What turned you around from that student, to your current level of proficiency?
A: I am a great believer in Oscar Wilde’s maxim that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught! I think a lot of teachers at school told me they didn’t ever think I’d amount to much and I think determination and tenacity to prove them wrong was a big driver.
Q: What is your writing process like? Are you rigid in your approach, schedule, manner?
A: Each book I write it takes me approximately seven months to write the first draft, then a further four months of editing processes. I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words 6 days a week. I find my best writing time is early evening, but I also write in the mornings, taking a break from writing in the afternoon to catch up with emails, walk the dogs, or do interviews and research.
I plan a book carefully. It is really the first 20% that I plan in detail, along with the ending, which I always know, to give me a “road map” and the three high points – but after that I like events to happen spontaneously, and for the story to start to take on a life of its own – that is when, for me, the real excitement starts. I believe that if, as a writer, you do not surprise yourself, you aren’t going to surprise your readers!
Q: Any advice to new writers hoping to enter the field?
A: The best possible advice I can give to any aspiring writer is to read, read, read, and analyze, 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. Analyze 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.
Peter James “Absolute Proof” is due to be released October, 2018. A standalone book not in the crime genre, it focuses on what could happen were someone of credibility to claim to have an absolute proof for the existence of God.
Our thanks to Peter for taking the time for this interview.
Here are his Social Media links:
YouTube channel: www.peterjames.com/YouTube
•Instagram Pets: https://instagram.com/peterjamesukpets
•Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Peter-James/e/B000APS7L4
Photo credit page 4: Lara James
Also in the August 2018 issue:
Tony Phillips: The Fires of Orc. Tony Phillips has written political commentary for The Huffington Post, Salon and numerous additional online and print publications. He is a former weekly columnist with San Diego CityBeat and has authored nonfiction and fiction works including novels, short stories and poetry.
Stuart Horwitz: As founder and principal of Book Architecture, Stuart has spent over fifteen years helping writers become authors, signing with top literary agencies, sealing deals with coveted publishing houses, or forging a successful path through indie publishing.
Alan Brennert: author of the best-selling historical novels MOLOKA’I and HONOLULU, both favorites of reading groups across the country. MOLOKA’I was a 2012 “One Book, One San Diego” selection and HONOLULU was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Washington Post. PEOPLE Magazine said of his novel PALISADES PARK, “Brennert writes his valentine to the New Jersey plaground of his youth in RAGTIME style, mixing fact and fiction. It’s a memorable trip.” His work on the television series L.A. LAW earned him an Emmy Award in 1991 and his short story “Ma Qui” was honored with a Nebula Award in 1992.
Joanne Pence: award-winning, USA Today best-selling author of two mystery series, the very long-running “Angie Amalfi” mysteries, and the new “Rebecca Mayfield” mysteries.
Ellis Knox: E.L. Skip Knox is a writer and historian who has created an alternate history world called Altearth. He has published a novelette, “Mad House”, two novels–“Goblins at the Gates” and “A Child of Great Promise”, and two short stories–“The Roadmaster” and “The Carrotfinger Man.” “The Roadmaster” was selected as an Editor’s Choice at Bewildering Stories for 2012.
Marc Rainer: Marc Rainer is the pen name for Charles (“Chuck”) Ambrose, Jr. He is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, and is a former Air Force JAG Circuit Prosecutor and former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and in Kansas City, MO. In his more than thirty years of experience, he has tried hundreds of both military and federal (civilian) major cases, including prosecutions of homicide cases, federal conspiracy trials, and mafia and other organized crime prosecutions.
Also, 3 excellent short stories, books reviews, columns and more….
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