First Drafts With… Peter James

Hi everyone, joining me on the blog today I’m delighted to welcome Peter James. Peter is the author of the Roy Grace novels, set in Brighton. He was kind enough to answer a few general questions, as well as about his writing process from start to finish.

1.       When did you start writing?

I have been writing since I was seven years old – my original ambition was to be a scriptwriter. I find the world we live in very interesting and I enjoy observing human behaviour, and that’s really my approach. I’m constantly taking note of what’s happening around me as you never know where you might find inspiration for a character or piece of plot.

2.       How did you get your big break?

 

My first ‘break’ was at age seventeen, when I won a national short story competition run by the BBC and got to read my story out on air. It was hugely exciting! However, my first professional writing job came along a few years later whilst I was living in Toronto and working on a children’s television series called Polka Dot Door. I was a gopher – it was my job to basically run errands. One day we were due to film an episode, but the writer hadn’t turned in the script. The producer asked if I could write one there and then, and I said ‘okay!’

 

3.       How much research do you do for each novel?

My novels tend to be very research-driven. I first had the seed of an idea for Absolute Proof when I received a mysterious call from someone claiming to have proof of the existence of god – just like Ross does – thirty years ago. In the decades that followed I did a great deal of research, ranging from speaking to religious leaders about the consequences absolute proof would have for believers, to living as a monk for five days in the extraordinary monastic commune of Mount Athos. It’s been an extraordinary journey!

 

4.       Who inspires you?

 

When I was 14, I read Graeme Greene’s Brighton Rock, and it totally changed my life. It’s the book that made me realise I wanted to be a writer, and also the reason that my Roy Grace series is based in Brighton. Greene has a way of describing characters, in just a few sentences, which makes you feel you know them inside out, and his sense of “place” is almost palpable. Brighton Rock is for me an almost perfect novel. It has one of the most gripping opening lines ever written too – ‘Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to kill him.’

 

5.       What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?

Reading extensively and intelligently is the most important thing – read books that have done well in the genre you want to write in and analyse what you like about the author’s style. Once you’ve started writing, make time to write every single day. Find a comfortable number of words to do each day and stick to that number. I am comfortable with 1,000 words. For some it might be 500, 200 or even 2,000 – as long as you are consistent, the number doesn’t matter. 

And you must love your characters – or no one else will!

6.       What is your writing routine?

I find that the time I write best is from 6pm to 10pm at night, so at 6pm I sit down with a vodka martini I’ve mixed myself, put on some music, turn off the phones, ignore emails and get myself into the “zone”. I love this period of “me time” when I get to block out the rest of the world and quietly focus on my current project – and the martini is a treat I look forward to throughout the day! I follow this routine six days a week while I am working on a novel.

 

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