I’m writing to you slightly later than planned thanks to a long journey north yesterday, followed swiftly by a full day of work today – writing and business meetings followed by a stint at BBC Radio Newcastle pre-recording an interview that will be aired in a couple of weeks or so. Oh, and the small matter of Mini-Me being on his half-term holidays this week…
However, now that I’m re-fuelled (with cake and coffee at a lovely little coffee shop in Wylam, Northumberland), I can get down to the fun stuff! After all, Mondays are ‘Author Introduction’ days, and today I’m delighted to welcome a fellow Northerner and suspense novelist, Peter Best, to the blog.
Peter was born in the North-East of England in the early sixties. He was brought up in a mining community and served an apprenticeship working on building sites as an electrician after leaving school where he made friends he describes as ‘real’ people who now feature in his novels. Likewise, the characters he has met during his travels over the years have also worked their way into his mind and into his novels. He spent time in Wiesbaden in Germany with his wife (who is German), where he fell in love with the culture and neighbouring county of Bavaria, but it was not until he returned to England that his writing solidified and his ideas came together for The Burden of Truth and its sequel. Now, he lives with his wife and daughter in the small seaside town of Frinton-on-Sea, in Essex, which features alongside the neighbouring town of Walton-on-the-Naze in his novel.
To help us discover a bit more about Peter, I asked him a few short questions he has kindly agreed to answer…
- Tell us a little about yourself – don’t be shy!
Many years ago, when I was at school, my English teacher said to me, “Peter, you have a vibrant pen.” So that’s how it all started, from what I can remember. Since childhood, I have loved reading and writing and I just never stopped. Mostly, it was just short stories which will never see the light of day. To be honest, most of them have never even been read by anyone, even my closest friends and family. However, they all knew of my fascination with writing.
It wasn’t until I returned from living in Germany that I first had the idea to take the plunge and write novels. At that time, I first started to string together my thoughts and ideas behind my first novel, The Burden of Truth. I absolutely loved writing that book and even if I admit to being very frustrated with it some of the time, I can look back and say it has been one of the happiest and most worthwhile experiences of my life.
At the moment, I’m working on two other novels. The first being the sequel to The Burden of Truth, and the second being a story set in The Highlands of Scotland which has more of a crime feeling to it. All in all, it’s coming along quite well so far.
- How about your latest book – what can readers look forward to when they pick it up?
I believe, or at least I hope, the first thing the reader will look forward to when they pick up my book, is that they would receive many hours of enjoyable entertainment. Now I’m not trying to be boastful, but others have told me my novel is well paced with interesting characters. I have also been told it has an interesting and intelligent plot, with more than its fair share of twists and turns. It’s also dramatic and full of suspense, set in some great locations. As I said, this is what has been said to me in the past and of course I hope future readers can look forward to that too.
However, that’s not all; not by a long chalk. When I first set out to write, The Burden of Truth, I wanted it to be more than just a story. I wanted the reader to think about the book so much that it got under their skin.
So, to answer the question further; what can readers look forward to? Well, a book with a deeper meaning. There are many messages in the book. Some are plain to see when you start getting into the nitty-gritty of it. However, some are hidden between the lines. I want the reader to enjoy the book more than anything else but if the reader does wish to delve into the book to discover the hidden messages and understand them, well that would be great.
- Who is your hero in real life and in fiction?
I heard of a story about a rock climber called Joe Simpson and I’m going to pick him as my real life hero. Back in 1985, he went on a climbing tour of the Peruvian Andes where he successfully conquered one of the peaks there. I’ll be honest and tell you I can’t remember which one or the height, but it was one of the most difficult. On the descent he fell and got into a great deal of trouble. Unfortunately, this fall broke his leg. Normally, a situation like that would mean almost certain death. However, this man survived the mountain by having the sheer willpower to live, even through the conditions and terrible bad luck. You can read his harrowing story in his account of what had happened in his book, Touching the Void. If you do, then you will realise just why he’s a hero.
As for my fictional hero; I’m going to say, Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not only was she a great character in the book, she went through hell and back with all sorts of things that have happened to her in the past, as well as truly horrible experience during the course of the story. She is a heroine to me because she had a great sense of doing the right thing, and an incredible sense of justice.
- Who are your three favourite writers – and why?
I have many favourite writers, but I’ll mention three here. The first is Stieg Larson, who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and two follow-ups. The reason he is on my list is because the plotlines were great. Really, I was blown away with all three books.
The second on my list is Jeffery Archer. Now, I know a lot of people can be somewhat negative about this author, but I love his work just for the simple way he can make a story so entertaining and enjoyable to read.
Now onto the third. I’m going to go with a lady by the name of Jan Petkin. She writes historical fiction. To me, her books are great. They’re well written with great characters, superb settings and plotlines. Mix the four together and you’re in for a treat and she seems to do this with ease. Certainly, a name to look out for in the future – well, that’s my prediction anyway!
- When you’re not writing, what is your favourite way to spend your time?
Okay, I’m going to let you all know my little secret. I play the harmonica. Very badly, I should add, even though I practice at least half an hour most days.
- What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
What a great question this is to mull over. I think this depends on how I’m looking at life at the time. In a way, I could say finishing The Burden of Truth is up there, as I felt very proud when I first held my book in my hand. Or I could say the electrical contracting business I developed. However, when I really think about it I think my greatest achievement is how my wife and I have worked through many great upheavals in our lives. So many illnesses and problems have been thrown our way, especially in the direction of my wife. Happy to say, up to now, we’ve come through them all.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
I read many stories as a child; adventure stories mostly. Alistair McLean’s Ice Station Zebra is the one which comes to mind first. I remember thinking: what a great adventure it would to be in the arctic battling against everything the weather could throw at you. However, I should say my favourite book wasn’t a storybook. It was an instruction book on how to sail. I must have read that over and over again as it gave me a sense of adventure. When I read that book my mind always wandered as I imagined sailing up rivers, across lakes in faraway lands. Loved it. By the way, as I got older I did get into sailing at one time and spent many a happy hour sailing around the backwaters of Walton on the Naze.
- Have you read any books recently that have really captured your imagination?
All the Light We Cannot See by Antony Doerr. I just loved how this book was written and how it captured the horrible times of the Second World War in France as well as Germany. Highly recommended read.
- If the Prime Minister knocked at your front door and asked to borrow a book, which one would you recommend they read?
I think I would give her one of the many books we have on our bookshelves which cover the subject of Buddhism. I say this because wouldn’t it be great if she actually learned about working with ethics as well as being mindful? Perhaps then she could put some of the teachings of the Buddha into her policies. Who knows, we might even end up having a little respect for each other.
- Finally, if you could be any character from a movie, which would it be?
Easy. Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code and all the other books and films in the series. I would love his job learning about the meanings of symbols, and then travelling the world giving lectures about everything you’ve learned.
…Thanks, Peter! Some great answers there and thank you for sharing some insights into what inspires your writing and the books that fed your imagination as a child, I’m looking forward to reading The Burden of Truth.
It’s goodbye for now – wishing you all a very happy and healthy week ahead!