In the second of a new series of ‘Channel Eye Chats’, sponsored by the Santander Work Café, today we meet international crime author, Peter James.
A menagerie of animals and Russian Roulette. Find out what makes Peter tick!
” ‘**** me. I’ve been shot’ said the Vicar’s wife, as her knickers hit the library floor of Ponsonby towers with a crash.”
When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was seven years old. I knew back then there were three things I wanted to do in life, I wanted to write books, make movies and race cars and I can still remember the first thing I ever wrote.
I used to keep, I still do, a little notebook by my bed and if I wake up in the night I write something down. The first thing I ever wrote was: ‘Life is a bowl of custard, it’s alright until you fall in’.
How do you write?
I love to read crime thrillers, which is what I write, and I’ve always loved that genre. I guess I’m one of those writers that’s a little bit rare, as I actually love writing.
I know so many writers who actually don’t like writing. They like having written. I have a back-to-front day because I was writing for when I was working full time in film and television.
Originally I made my ‘me time’ of six till nine o’clock at night and that is still my favourite time. So, if you like, my 24 hour clock writing day starts at six in the evening with a stiff drink, usually a Vodka Martini with four olives, I’m very precise about it. I put on music and I get in the zone and I’ll write until about half eight/nine.
In the morning, we have a lot of animals, we have a Menagerie of pygmy goats and dogs and cats, hens, so we take the dogs out, feed all the animals and then I’ll spend maybe an hour running. I get to my office about half 10/11 o’clock and then I’ll read what I wrote the night before, hope that I didn’t have too many vodkas and too many glasses of wine and that it makes sense.
What brought you to Jersey?
Part of the reason for coming to Jersey was to get away, initially a bolt hole to go and write in, away from all the distractions. However, we totally fell in love with this Island and I found it very inspiring.
I actually set a novel entirely here called ‘I Follow You’ about an obstetrician, who becomes infatuated with a patient.
I find it deeply inspirational, I love this Island, I find the beauty of it, I find the politeness of the people, the tranquillity and you know, there’s still enough police activity to keep it interesting. I spent a night in a prison as… for charity… about 18 months ago and that was a really great experience.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
A few weeks ago getting to my 19th number one and then also escorting the Duchess of Cornwall around the film set of ‘Grace’, as another highlight, she’s my like number one fan.
What new skill would you like to learn?
I’d like to learn a musical instrument. When I was a kid, the guys who were always pulling the girls were the ones who could play the guitar. They’d sit in the corner, strum away, you know I don’t know, whatever it was… and the birds would flock round. So I used to have terrible envy, I did try (to play) and I had guitar lessons and he got angry with me because I bit my nails.
My wife’s having piano lessons at the moment and I love it, it’s just amazing to sit there, I think playing music is magic.
I actually try to learn something new every day. Yesterday I learned that Monet won the lottery and that enabled him to paint full time and he may never have given the world all the art. Just little details like that.
If you could wind back time and be present at any past event, what would you choose?
I am quite cynical about when people talk about the wonderful past. I’m old enough to remember when my dentist peddled the drill by foot and the sheer, stark terror I felt.
I can remember I was writing about the pharmaceutical business and I came across a book in the Welcome Foundation’s Research Library. It was adverts for surgeons in 1850, before anaesthetics. It was things like ‘your gallbladder removed in five minutes or your money back’.
So, I’m not sure I’d want to go back in time anywhere, unless I knew that I wouldn’t have to suffer seeing a doctor.
If you could meet any author – what would you ask them?
Graham Greene – reportedly, well fact, used to play Russian Roulette regularly with a revolver.
Now I’ve always been fascinated, but never tried it, because in theory your statistics is like you have a 17% chance of dying on a six gun. But I have been told that if you play Russian Roulette and there’s only one bullet in the chain, that bullet tends to pull the barrel down to the bottom, so your risk is much reduced, so I wanted to ask him if he knew that…
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