BookView Interview with Author Peter Bailey

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we talked to Peter Bailey about his writing and his recently relaesed dystopian thriller Rats in a Maze which is published by Moonshine Cove. Rats in a Maze is third novel.

Peter lives in England with his long-suffering wife. His first story was a fictionalised account of a disastrous trip to Las Vegas with a dental abscess. Since then, he has written a vampire story (without any actual vampires) and about a perfectly ordinary day at the office that will last for eternity. Rats In A Maze is his third book, kindly published by Moonshine Cove, in September 2020

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

It was after a trip to Las Vegas, a place better known for losing money and alcoholic excess than a sudden need to write. While we were in Sin City there were several misfortunes which I wrote up in Tripadvisor. My report gathered over a hundred replies and for the first time I wondered if people might like to read what I wrote.

The report is still online, have a look at it here!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Far too many to count. Sometimes I look at the half formed ideas and skeletons of books and wonder about reanimating them, and then I get back to the project in hand

Do you find writing therapeutic?

Yes, very. I suffer from anxiety, but while I have a book in progress I find all those excess thoughts that might become malignant go towards plot development and I feel much happier.  I think of anxiety as the background processing of my brain when it has nothing else to do.  But if I’m busy trying to work out the plot hole I’d just discovered in chapter three – then there’s no time for anxiety.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

Stopping! Given the chance I’d hang on to a book forever adding extra little bits and tweaking the plot.  The only way I can get free of the current book is because the siren call of the next book is getting ever louder

(After ‘Rats in a maze’ I started work on ‘they do terrible things’ which is now complete and with the proofreaders,  and I’m getting ready to start on ‘police and revenge’ (working title)

How many hours a day do you write?

2.5 hours every day unless physically prevented. I open the laptop at 19:30 and work to 22:00 come rain, shine or box sets on the TV.  Of course, that’s only the time I spend bashing keys, the rest of the day I’m thinking ‘what comes next’ and working out what I’m going to put into those 2.5 hours.

I’m not sure why I stick so rigidly to these times, perhaps its just a case that I don’t want to break a winning formula

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both, sometimes I close the laptop with a real buzz, but then there are the other times when I’m almost too tired to close the lid. Sometimes the words come easy, sometimes they fight back

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Big or little doesn’t matter as long as you can defend that state. I’ve seen too many planet sized egos with nothing to back them up except hot air, but then there’s always the little guy working away in the basement that gets results.

How often you read?

Every day, If I don’t have a book in progress, I feel a little lost. I read eBooks almost exclusively because paper books are uncomfortable to hold after an accident

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to be original as all the common tropes have been mined out and their discarded corpses litter Amazon. According to Christopher Booker there are only seven basic plots (Overcoming the Monster, The Quest etc etc) so the trick is to tell an old story in new clothes. Stars Wars and Beowulf are both examples of Overcoming the Monster, except you don’t find many Light Sabers in Beowulf (although since someone has added zombies to Pride And Prejudice, the release of ‘Beowulf vs Darth Varder’ cannot be far away.)

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I guess so? As long as you can make the words dance in just the right way perhaps what the author feels is irrelevant, or to quote the old joke ‘the secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.’

What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

Philip K Dick

Robert A. Heinlein

John Brunner

Early period Stephen king (Firestarter, The dead zone, Christine etc)

Raymond Chandler

Michael Connelly

Robert Crais

(If you squint carefully at the above list you can see my slow migration from sci-fi to hardboiled detective novels, which is reflected in the plot of Rats In A Maze

Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma or something else?

The seed for Rats In A Maze came from some TV movie (and I cannot remember which one it was.) The movie started with bad men breaking into a house and then bad things happen (this is Hollywood plot 27A or see Cape Fear (the original!).)  But I started to wonder, what if the bad men met something stronger than them (this is Hollywood plot 27B, see Wait Until Dark or Don’t Breathe) but I started to see the home invasion as just the curtain raiser for a much bigger story.

What’s more important: characters or plot?

Neither, if the plot is the foundations then the characters are the house. The whole structure only works if both of those are strong. See for example The Catcher in the Rye, I get that Holden is a troubled flawed character representing Coming Of Age, but he reads like a laundry list of teenage angst and a good book dies on its feet 

Which character was most challenging to create? Why?

Jessica Sorenson, I wanted a strong older woman with a god like power that didn’t sound like a comic book character that the reader could identify with, and enough humanity to make a connection with Ray

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

Chapter eleven, because it’s the moment that the scales fall from Ray and Brad’s eyes and they see the world as it truly is without the fantasy that Jessica gave them.  It’s a chance for a complete change of gear from a police procedural drama to (hopefully!) something much bigger

Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?

Chapter one because I wanted to suggest a lot, but say very little. I didn’t want to give the game away with what was really happening.


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