To mark the paperback publication of A Twist of the Knife, Peter James’ collection of short stories, I am delighted to present a short interview with the author:
1. As your readers will know, a great depth of research goes into each of your books. How did you apply this to a short story collection?
I find a lot of my research gives me nuggets that I cannot always use in a novel. But lend themselves to the medium of short stories. For instance both Gifts In The Night and Ghost Painting were both as result of true stories told to me by the Chief Exorcist Of The Church Of England (he exists!) of the two occasions in his 40 years experience where had encountered something for which he truly had no rational explanation.
2. With the Roy Grace series, do you have in mind what will happen to the recurring characters in future books, or do you plot the character development for each story as you come to it?
I do have character development for each of them planned out, but often once I start writing, spontaneity kicks in, and I change my mind!!! What I do love is at the start of each new Roy Grace book sitting down and having an imaginary chat with them all, in my head. “Hi Norman, how are you doing, who’ve you pissed off today???”
3. Do you have any plans for more standalone novels?
Very much so! I have my first full length ghost story novel in 20 year coming out on October 8th this year, THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL, which I’m hugely excited about. And later this year I’m starting work on a thriller I’ve been planning to write for a long time, on the theme of religion and what would happen if someone claimed to have absolute proof of God’s existence. This is inspired by a strange man who contacted me very many years ago, saying just this…
4. Can you tell us a little about how it feels seeing your books adapted as plays?
The adaptations of THE PERFECT MURDER and DEAD SIMPLE for the stage have been some of the happiest experiences of my career. I had three previous novels – Prophecy Host and Alchemist adapted for television and was deeply unhappy with them. But Sean McKenna did the most fantastic job, and they have both been huge hits. I’ve now seen Dead Simple over thirty times but never tire of it – and I love watching the audience reactions! Tina Hobley, who co-stars in DEAD SIMPLE, said to me during rehearsals, “You know, you must feel like God! We were all in your head, and now we are all standing in front of you!” I know what she meant. It is a very strange but very wonderful thing to see your creation come so alive.
5. What are the best 3 books you’ve read in the past 12 months?
I’m on a Patricia Highsmith binge at the moment – I’d never read her before – but I’ve been asked on a panel at Harrogate in July to discuss her work so I’m reading her avidly – and she is one the best discoveries ever. I loved, loved, loved THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY and the novel that became the HitcHock Film, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. I also read a first novel that totally blew me away and has a twist that makes me envious, because it is so brilliant! I LET YOU GO by Claire Mackintosh.
6. 3 books you’d take with you if you were being whisked away on a surprise holiday tomorrow?
I would take a Michael Connelly, as he is my personal favourite crime writer. A former court reporter, he gets things right. So I would take his most recent, THE BURNING ROOM, I would also take Vernon Geberth’s PRACTICAL HOMICIDE, the best reference book ever for crime writers, and great to dip in and out of for ideas. And thirdly I would take THE DIARIES OF SAMUEL PEPYS – a book I have for so long wanted to read but never had the time for.
Thank you, Peter, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer those questions.