It’s rare that I get to talk to someone who does what I do, or in this case did, for I had the exciting opportunity of interviewing Peter Boland, former Copywriter and Advertising Creator turned thriller writer, who gives me the low-down on his work!
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards thriller writing?
I like reading fast-paced novels. I guess I have the attention span of a five-year-old on Haribo, so my writing style is the same. I don’t like hanging around and want things to be happening on every page, pulling the reader along. Writing action thrillers was a natural choice. Entertaining action thrillers would be the name for it, I suppose.
Please tell me more about your background and how you came to be a full time writer.
I started off studying architecture, but was fairly useless at it, as I couldn’t make things stand up, which is a bit of a handicap in a profession that likes keeping things upright. So I decided to become an advertising copywriter (the building industry breathed a sigh of relief), coming up with ideas for TV ads and writing press ads and brochures. Advertising used to be very creative, but I think it’s lost its way. I can’t remember the last time I saw and ad and thought wow, that’s really clever. Being a bit disillusioned with it all, I changed to writing thrillers where I pretty much have free reign. And can put in the odd brutal murder, which for some reason, never caught on in advertising.
Talk me through Savage Lies. Why do you believe the book has become so popular?
That’s very kind of you to call it popular, but I’m not sure I’m there yet! Early days. Savage Lies is my first thriller and came out in June this year. However, feedback from reviews is very positive and suggests that readers like the grittiness mixed with moments of dark humour. I guess that’s my USP. Thrillers are known for being very serious and grisly, and mine are too, but I like the contrast of shocking the reader one minute and making them laugh the next. Also, my main character, John Savage is a lot more vulnerable than say, Jack Reacher. Don’t get me wrong, he’s as tough as nails but he has PTSD, and hears a voice in his head that’s always criticising and mocking him. Savage is also quite sarcastic and has that British sense of humour, especially around the bad guys.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
There’s something about walking that always gets my creative juices flowing. If I’m ever stuck on something I take a walk and suddenly everything slots into place. Usually if I’m planning a new novel, I’ll go over the Purbeck Hills with a notebook and just walk for hours, letting ideas drift into my head. Must be something about the amazing scenery that is conducive to the creative process. Although, it all goes wrong once I stop at the Scott Arms and order my first pint of pale ale.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
For living, I’d say Lee Child because I think he’s the master of the genre I write in; lone wolf, vigilante justice. For dead, I’d say Terry Pratchett. Firstly, because of the humour, and secondly, even though he wrote fantasy, some of his books were out and out crime thrillers. They just happen to be set on a flat world.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
I’m currently working on the follow up to Savage Lies, which is called Savage Games. In this one a body is found hidden 50 feet up a tree in a creepy part of the New Forest called Dead Maids. Savage and Tannaz try to find out how it got there, and in doing so uncover some sinister happenings. Can’t say any more or it’ll spoil it!
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
I have such a big backlog of books I want to read that I haven’t even looked at anything new. Still playing catch up. But here’s a few books that I’ve recently read that have impressed the hell out of me: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (not really a thriller but extremely dark, brutal and also beautiful), Tideline by Penny Hancock, The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, and Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
If everyone could buy thirty copies of Savage Lies that would be really helpful (just kidding, twenty will be fine).
Thank you Peter; it’s great to hear from a former fellow copywriter, and your book is awesome too!