Welcome to the five hundred and sixty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with murder mystery novelist Peter Bradbury. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Peter. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Peter: Hello Morgen. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area but I was born near Manchester in England. I worked in a variety of jobs after leaving school, mainly in restaurants and hotels, but when I was 30 I went back to school and became a Butler. After I moved to the USA in 1994 I kept being asked what life was like as a Butler and I began Stonebridge Manor. Although it’s fiction, some of the characters are based on people I’ve know, and the character Phillip is basically me. I put the book down for a long time and eventually finished it in 2011.
Morgen: Wow, you’re my first butler. Downton Abbey is so popular here, and I think so over the pond, that I’d say your book is perfect timing. I’ve had a number of authors here from San Francisco (C.S. Lakin, Rick Reed, Myra Sherman, and Daniel Silver to name a few). 🙂 What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Peter: I like murders and mysteries, but I did start a comedy, and I’m still thinking of horror if I can make it creepy enough.
Morgen: Readers can have high expectations but above all they want to be entertained. What have you had published to-date?
Peter: I’ve published ‘Stonebridge Manor’. ‘Prospects’ is almost ready to be published.
Morgen: How exciting. 🙂 You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Peter: The dead end with agents. I must have sent hundreds of emails to agents but they never even looked at the book, they just sent formatted replies of regret. So I decided to publish myself.
Morgen: That’s what happened to me too, although I only tried a dozen (well, fourteen). Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Peter: Yes they are, in all formats. I was involved in the process but I needed a little help with the formatting for Smashwords. I still prefer paper but I do have a nook, and if I commuted or travelled I would use it more.
Morgen: Me too. I only commute from my bedroom, along the landing to my study (the back bedroom). 🙂 Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Peter: My favourite in Stonebridge would have to be Ken, who is based on my former mentor. If it were to become a film, then Charlize Theron or Michelle Pfeiffer as the Lady, and Ewan McGregor as Phillip.
Morgen: Great choices. Did you choose the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Peter: The titles are my doing. My wife’s son did the Stonebridge Cover and I chose the cover for Prospects. They are important, especially for print, but with Stonebridge he really wanted to do it for me so I let him do so.
Morgen: I did my own covers, one of the most enjoyable aspects of self-publishing. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Peter: I’m working on Consequences, which is about what could happen if you treat people wrong. The main character had a terrible childhood and now he’s older and stronger he wants his revenge and is taking it.
Morgen: I love the sound of that. My NaNoWriMo 2010 novel was something similar although her experience was only a few years before she gets the opportunity for revenge (the guy’s car breaks down and he knocks on her door!), rather than childhood. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Peter: I try to write but sometimes other things come up and then I can’t. I haven’t suffered from writer’s block yet, but I have to stop and think sometimes where I’m going with the story.
Morgen: So do I. I think we all do at some stage, even those of us who don’t suffer from writer’s block. Sometimes we just need to walk away for a while and see things clearer when we get back. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Peter: I plotted Stonebridge but I just ran with Prospects. I think I prefer to just run with it but you have to keep writing on a very regular basis.
Morgen: You do. It’s all about practice. 300 words a day is 100,000 words a year (109,500 with no days off!). Most people I’ve spoken to are ‘pantsers’ and even those who plot go off at a tangent sometimes. It’s the nature of the beast, and I love it. Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Peter: I believe you have to base characters on real people and then change things a little. It’s easier if you have someone in mind that you know. I don’t think their names matter that much, as long as you can remember who they are associated with. As they are based on real people, I think it makes them to be more believable.
Morgen: You are writing a lot from experience which must help. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Peter: I thought Stonebridge was pretty good and was told so, then someone complained at the long sentences. So I had it edited. There was a lot of editing, yet the book grew in words. I will have all future books edited.
Morgen: Ah yes, a mix of long and short sentences keeps the pace. I mention that on my writing 101 page. Everyone, however experienced they are, should have their work edited. Apart from catching the things we think are right, my editor / first readers come up with some great suggestions. Do you have to do much research?
Peter: Quite a bit, but the internet is a great tool. It’s hard to imagine having to go to the library with a pad of paper and spending all day there.
Morgen: Although that sounds great we don’t have the time these days, do we. I think it’s a great time to be a writer. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Peter: Third, but I do tend to slip into first and second person without knowing it.
Morgen: Do you? How interesting, especially that you slip into second person (it’s my favourite). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Peter: Not right now. Let me answer that in a few months.
Morgen: I hope the answer will be the same. The more you write the more you can see where something needs fixing. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Peter: A ton of them. You talk with other writers and you discover they have had them as well. Even famous authors have had to try to sell their own books.
Morgen: They do / have. Dean Koontz is quoted as having over 500 but he stuck with it. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Peter: I don’t have an agent but I would love one. They do all the work that you never even think of having to do when you write and they get the book out there.
Morgen: They often are an asset. Quite a few authors I’ve interviewed have had bad experiences but the good ones are worth their commission. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Peter: Right now I’m having to do most of it which is not easy for me as I was a terrible salesman. So I’m learning as I go along.
Morgen: I’m rubbish at selling myself and should do more, although I’m waiting until I get more online (this side of Christmas) before I do much, and this blog helps get the ‘Morgen Bailey’ brand out there. 🙂 Marketing’s usually the answer to the ‘least’ part of my next question. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Peter: My favourite aspect is the actual writing but I wish I could hire a research assistant even though we have the world wide web. The biggest surprise is the cost involved in everything, it is not cheap to get a book out there.
Morgen: I’ve been fortunate in that I’m fairly I.T. literate so it’s not cost me anything to get my eBooks online. That’ll obviously be different when it comes to having paperbacks I can sell locally (my debut novel features the town I live in so I’ll get it published as a paperback at some stage). What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Peter: Don’t get disheartened with agents but realize what you’re getting into. Writing a story is the easy part.
Morgen: It is, sadly. I wrote the first draft of my debut (the third book I wrote actually) was 117,540 words in a month (for NaNoWriMo 2009) and it’s taken six drafts (because I’m a bit of a perfectionist) and three second pairs of eyes to get it this far. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Peter: Jack Benny, Marilyn Monroe and Alex Ferguson. A slow cooker beef stroganoff.
Morgen: Mmm, nice. I love stroganoff. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Peter: Jack of all Trades, Master of None.
Morgen: 🙂 What do you do when you’re not writing?
Peter: I like to play golf, watch football, movies, and read if I have time.
Morgen: Ah, yes, time. We used to be friends once. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Peter: I like the http://writersdigest.com but it’s the networks and forums that are most useful to me. I’m on a bunch of them. You can ask questions like who they recommend for editing or to do press releases for instance, and you can also help others.
Morgen: They’re great, aren’t they. LinkedIn’s especially useful for that (putting a shout-out on the Published Author Network group provided me with hundreds of interviewees!). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Peter: I think the future is bright, especially with ebooks. People seem to like reading again so that’s great. The downside is the bookstores which are going out of business.
Morgen: Too many, although (encouragingly) crime novelist Stephen Booth mentioned on Facebook the other day that one’s just opened near him (Derbyshire, UK). Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Peter: I have a website: petercbradbury.com
Then they can look on amazon where they will find reviews of Stonebridge Manor and my author site.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Peter: Just that I try to make my books entertaining and to keep readers turning the pages. If they like things such as Gosford Park, or Remains of the Day and such, then they will like Stonebridge Manor.
Morgen: They’re great books, and films. Thank you, Peter.
I then invited Peter to include a synopsis of his book…
Stonebridge Manor is about life in an English country mansion. Lady Baldwin is very beautiful, sexy, conniving, manipulative, and totally outrageous. Surrounded by servants, family, famous friends, she can be nice or nasty in equal measure. When she is murdered after a weekend of partying, it is anyone’s guess as to who did it as everyone seems to have a motive.
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