Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Peter Swanson?
At this particular moment I’m a lump on a couch getting over a spring cold and looking forward to the start of the baseball season. I aspire to a dull life while at the same time concoct very un-dull lives for my characters.
Prior to being a full time writer I was a bookseller, a teacher, a bartender, a bookseller, and a blogger. And through it all I’ve been an avid reader, primarily of mystery and crime novels. I like to think that I am now living my ideal life.
Your latest novel, All the Beautiful Lies, will be published by William Morrow in April. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?
I like to think of it as two stories that converge into one. In the first story a recent college graduate named Harry Ackerson moves in with his stepmother after his father’s death, and discovers that his father led a secret life. In the other story we follow his stepmother, Alice Moss, going back to when she was a teenage girl, and the events that turned her into the adult she becomes.
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
One of my many inspirations for this book was monster movies, the idea that immortality can be achieved by sucking life from the young. None of this is literalized in the novel, but it was always at the back of my mind. Monsters are created by other monsters, and that is what the book is about. Well, one thing it’s about anyway. I was also inspired, as I always am, by location. This time it was the chilly windswept coast of Maine.
In general, my inspirations come from many sources, but mostly I just have a vivid imagination that is constantly conjuring up dark scenarios.
How were you introduced to suspense fiction and reading in general?
I was one of those avid childhood readers and I was always attracted to mystery stories, dark stuff, supernatural horror, anything I could get my hands on. When I was around eleven or twelve I started reading the books that my parents left around. I think I read Jaws and Coma back to back and I was hooked for life on adult thrillers.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
It’s my dream job, and I pinch myself all the time that I get to live out my dream. Of course, there are some aspects I like more than others. The best days are writing days, when I’m in the middle of a novel, and things are going well. Doing promotion for my books is less fun but I’ve gotten to enjoy it. The best part is meeting people in the industry. I am still surprised at how nice everyone is in publishing, including the many other thriller writers I’ve met.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
When I’m working on a novel I write a thousand words every day. I try and finish this before lunch, and that leaves me the afternoon for walking, reading, and answering emails. Honestly, I do very little research besides taking trips to locations on the weekend.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing?
When I was in my mid thirties I’d written many short stories and poems but I had never written a novel. I came up with an idea for a whodunit, and wrote it in about a year. It wasn’t published but that feeling of finishing a novel was one of the best moments of my life.
Do you still look back on it fondly?
Yes! I’m sure the book is not so great (I haven’t read it in years), but just finishing a book is such an accomplishment. I try not to lose that feeling.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m doing final edits on my next novel, Before She Knew Him, that will be coming out in Spring of 2019, and I’m starting to think about what I’d like to write next.
What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?
I’m reading Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare called Will in the World, and, for fiction, I’m reading Eric Rickstad’s new novel, What Remains of Her. It won’t be out till July but it’s a really great creepy thriller.
If you could recommend only one novel to someone, what would it be?
Everyone should read Any Human Heart by William Boyd. It’s a very moving tale of all the phases of a life while at the same time a funny, intelligent chronicle of the twentieth century.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
I just booked a rental house on the coast of Maine for two weeks in August and I wish I was there right now with a stack of books.
Peter Swanson’s All the Beautiful Lies is published next week (April 3rd) by William Morrow (North America) and Faber & Faber (UK). Swanson is also the author of Her Every Fear, The Kind Worth Killing and The Girl With a Clock for a Heart — all published by William Morrow in North America, and Faber in the UK.