At The Bar With: Peter James & Jackie Kabler

Peter James catches up with Jackie kabler about his new book: find them dead

Peter James posing in front of his car for Sunday Times

Book Pub Review joins Jackie Kabler live on Instagram who has a chat with Peter James. She invites the nation into her sunny (at the time – it was about two weeks ago) home in Gloucestershire. Peter James is a best selling crime novelist from Brighton. He is mostly known for creating the much loved Superintendent Detective Roy Grace. During the lockdown period, James spent time in his study at the top of his tower (King James, eh) in Jersey. The perfect setting for a thriller to be written among these dark times, don’t you agree? Home of the famous Victor Hugo title Les Misérables. At the time of this live chat, his book The Secret of Cold Hill had just been released. This was based on a construction site with ghostly happenings that the new couple encounters. James‘ release of Find Them Dead is being released today (9th July 2020) so we felt like it was perfect timing to publish this article. He described it as a sequel to The Secret of Cold Hill. He said “you don’t have to read them together as they can stand alone”. The first one is a stand alone modern feeing whereas the second is a classic dark tale. Roy hates his direct boss and got offered to move to the met. As he deals with knife crime and gangs, a mother is 43 who has no husband and teenage son after a crash some years ago. Her daughter has gone on a gap year but the mother gets called onto jury service. When she gets home, there is a photo of her daughter travelling where she appears to be somewhere in Ecuador. Her phone then rings with a strangers voice telling her they know where her daughter will be at all times. If she wants her daughter to live, she only has two say two words at the end of the trial…

“I have never written a novel like this”

He never had the opportunity to have a first hand approach to an observation when researching his book – as he was asked by the met police if he wanted to ghost them for a period of time. There were stories that he had never been able to hear or see if he hadn’t been a part of the trial which he was really grateful for. He described it as a fascinating time. He has announced he won’t be doing any signings due to COVID-19. There is a shop in Brighton called City Books who will be selling pre-signed copies of the book.

Here are some highlights of the interview below:

Jackie: Which one of your books would you like made into a film? She commented how he has had many books made into an adaptation of a theatre production or film.

Peter: There will be a new adaptation for stage. Hopefully, in march. The first two books of Roy Grace will be made into a television series. They aim to start filming in September but it depends on the circumstances. They have said to have John Simm play Roy Grace. When I first created Roy, I always pictured someone like Simm play him because of his soft but practical personality.

J: How have we both been finding the writing during lockdown?

My next deadline is not until September. I did not write much during the beginning of lockdown but now I am getting used to it and trying to keep up with my actual day job.

J: My biggest concern is when I start writing the stand alone books gets me to the point where I will need to get out in the field with the police. For the first time though, I have been ahead of schedule!

J: Is there any of you in Roy Grace?

P: There is a lot of me in Roy Grace, not the brave side. He is into the justice, naturally. Brighton has the hospital which are fantastic. If I get every opportunity, Roy would slag it off. Six years ago, the head of the hospital rang me and said “can I come and tell you what we are trying to do to make the hospital better?”

J: How do you come up with your storylines?

P: I get ideas from anywhere. Dead Man’s Grip was inspired by the Sussex dive team. They had pulled out an eighteen year old from a car and he drowned to death. As they pulled him out, he had a Dead Man’s Grip which was where the one lined title came from. Dead At First Sight came from the Sussex Police. They approached me in 2017. Residents had been conned out of a scam (worth millions of pounds). They asked if I wanted to write about it but they couldn’t give out names and other information. It fascinated me that a lady had lost £40,000 from one person scamming her. The police do approach me for stories. There has been other times where I read a story in the newspaper. For example, I was thinking about writing a story about a killer within the hospital but I thought it wasn’t a good time for that so put it aside.

J: It’s funny how a little idea can spark a whole book. How do you plan your books?

P: I start with a three point plan. I start like a typical theatre structure with a beginning middle and end so I can see my structure clearly.

J: Do you still read reviews? Do bad reviews bother you? Do you notice them? Do they affect your writing?

P: I do listen to intelligent criticism from my fans. I love feedback. What really gets me that there was a review on amazon but the reason was because the packaging was torn. When I do have one that is unfair or nasty, I have them on a notepad and put them in my new book. There was one occasion with some one from a magazine (Sorry sound is bad on this interview) and she was dismembered in the mortuary in my book.

J: How do you cope with writer’s block?

P: I don’t believe in writer’s block. If you are a professional writer, there is an expression that says those who are amateurs get stuck whilst the rest of us get on with it. I am not saying that I don’t get a little stuck now and again but if that’s is the case then I will just wonder around the garden or have an Espresso Martini. The first I ask anyone with writer’s block will be if they know the ending of the end of their book. I question them to this answer like “Would you get in a car if you didn’t know where you were going?”. I love to help writers and their journey. It is about thinking about it and coming to a resolution then going for it. It is hard to write every day and some people struggle with but. Personally, I love it.

J: I find doing something physical will clear your head. I like to go for a run or a walk round the block. I do agree with you. I don’t think I personally suffer from this. There might be a page where you are not sure how to continue with the page but you know the direction you are heading. That’s when you know it is time to take a walk. Next question, Do you have any favourite writers?

P: I read lots of new novels. I get between 10 and 20 novels a week. There is nothing like picking up a new book and knowing you love it. I love the Hunting Party that was recently number one. Graham Green is probably one of my favourites. Beautiful writing and mannerisms in terms of the human factor. I try to read some modern writers but there are so many around. I lean towards the modern writers like Harlem Coben and Linwood Barclay. I find the British crime writers does have an Agatha Christie structure where the rest of the book will problem solve. I find that it is much more exciting if the victim is still alive at the end of chapter one. Green inspired me to write a crime novel at the age of fourteen. He was the first to break that mould.

J: How long does it take you to write a book?

P: I have always said that I wanted to raise the bar with every book. From the time is takes to write the first sentence to the last is roughly about seven months of the first draft. By the time it is edited and printed is another four to five months on top of this. There are always deadlines from the editors after a certain time so it’s best to have a writing timeline.

The interview on Instagram is still available on her wall. It was very fascinating to listen to his process and experience whilst writing his books. We hope to read and review his new book that comes out TODAY (9th June 2020) as it sounds so good! Thank you for reading this highlighted interview with Peter James and Jackie Kabler. Thank you to Jackie who hosted the afternoon and for posting it online.

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