Peter James is the UK’s biggest thriller writer. With more than thirty books under his belt, which have been translated into thirty-seven languages and sold over 19 million copies, James has won countless awards, including the Best Crime Author of All Time, and has had a number of his books adapted for film, television and the stage. Suffice to say, it is not hyperbole to refer to James as one of the the most successful writers on the planet. “How has he done it?” we hear you cry. Well, luckily for you, Peter James was kind enough to provide some terrific advice to baby writers.
Image Via PeterJames.com
When asked ‘What is your advice to would-be thriller writers, or aspiring writers in general?’ James responded:
Characters. I think that there’s an inseparable trinity in any great thriller of character, research and plot. I put them in that order deliberately, because first and foremost, we read books to find out what happens to characters we meet and engage with from the first page. They don’t have to be ‘nice’ people, but they have to engage and fascinate us. You know, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is not a nice character but he engages.
I put research in second position because people who read are smart. I think when we read we don’t just want to read a great story, we read because we want to learn something about human nature and the world in which we live, and I think you can tell very fast if an author doesn’t know their subject, if an author’s writing about a lawyer but they’ve clearly never sat in a lawyer’s office, or they’re writing about a gun and they’ve never held one, or someone flying a plane and they’ve never sat at the controls of a cockpit, it’s apparent. It’s understanding what you’re writing about.
Plot is obviously important, but if you don’t care about the characters, and you don’t think the author’s done their research, the plot’s not going to matter because you’re not going to read on.
So in terms of the best tips I can give you, these are:
1. Create engaging characters.
2. Research every aspect of what you are going to write.
3. Know the ending that you want to get to – I find this enormously helpful – it may change as I approach it but it gives me a vanishing point on the horizon to aim at.
4. Think of a series of high points for your book – and make sure each one is bigger than the previous one.
5. Write something 6 days a week – it is crucial to get into a flow – find an amount that you can write each day, whether is is 200 words or 2000 words, and rigidly stick to them because that will get you into a rhythm.
6. And finally… Have fun! If you enjoy writing, that will come through in the pages!
Healing, like creativity, is a process; there is no on/off switch. It flows like a river, sporadically obstructed by nature and chance. Shit happens—emotionally, spiritually, physically, we get hurt and we turn to various outlets to heal. People exercise, meditate, cleanse, float in some sort of sensory reduction tank (because apparently, that’s a thing), and others create. Regarding books, I do not mean to exclude the reader from this act of creation. There’s a well-known quote by Samuel Johnson circling our illustrious world wide web that says: “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”
Look at that face, that’s a solid blue steel. Image Via Wikipedia
The reader fills in all the blanks—I know this because of all the literary theory classes those college people made me take…Reading allows the human mind to escape the limitations our so-called realities place upon it. Creating is the same. In the moment, your creation feels like all that matters. But it’s still about more than just you.
A local news station in Cleveland recently did a piece on a homeless man who enjoys drawing as a means to cope with his own limitations. Eugene Sopher draws pages for a coloring book that, due to Sopher’s precarious financial situation, may never be published. To Sopher, that doesn’t matter.
“I do this drawing, and it’s medicine, baby,” said Sopher. “I’m in the zone. Not trying to mix it with drugs, but it’s the best high I’ve ever had.”
His lack of finances and exposure have led to some unconventional PR methods: he relies on strangers to make copies for him so that he may share is art with the world. The wide variety of pages he has created contain lessons for young and old alike. Some of his pictures warn about the dangers of gang violence or meeting strangers online, and others aim to simply put a smile on your face. Sopher, who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder, has not had an easy life. He has felt the weight of the world and the resulting discombobulation. At forty-four years young, he spends a good amount of time drawing uncolored pages so that he can escape any personal grimness and help his readers.
“I can do something because if they’re reading that, they can say, ‘You know what? That happened to me. Oh, you what know, I went through that,” said Sopher. “A lot of the reason I keep my cartoons in black and white is it gives you a chance to put color to them.”
Sopher’s story and art remind us that creativity is not some sort of commodity purchased in the restricted section of society. It’s not exclusively available to those deemed ‘intellectual.’ It’s part of all of us, a silver lining that bridges the gap between reality and perception, body and soul. Regardless of one’s age, race, or gender—whether it be the lawyer who journals in her free time or the homeless man who lives to doodle—we are all connected by imagination and our ability to create.
Meghan Markle, former American Actress, current philanthropist, and, most recently, the Duchess of Sussex, is also an avid reader!
Left: Meghan Markle in an episode of Suits. Right: Photograph of Meghan Markle. | Image via Daily Express
On her various social media channels (her Instagram and her now-closed lifestyle blog The Tig), books have always been one of her most prominently featured interests. Of all the books Markle is excited about, her favorite is The Little Prince by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Image via Amazon
For obvious reasons (that is, reasons involving puns) this would be the perfect book for Markle to read to her little prince, princess, or otherwise-specified member of the royal family. She’s elaborated on her love of this book:
I have long been obsessed with this book, and specifically with The Little Fox. Even if I don’t revisit the entire existential text (masked as a children’s book), the chapter of The Little Fox unearths a truth in me that is always worth the check-in.
Sadly, because of her royal obligations, her blog has come to an end, and so her full favorite list of books is no longer accessible. Thankfully, fans have done the work for us, and the books that are mentioned the most just so happen to be perfect for the different stages of growing up.
While The Little Prince is perfect for Markle to read her child to sleep while they are still young children, she’s also shared her favorite children’s books for a little later in life.
This is a great read for middle school, a time when social pressures start to arise and questions of identity begin to form. Combining the nostalgic comfort that Pooh brings with Taoist ideals of just ‘being,’ The Tao of Pooh is a strong choice. Markle says:
Aspects of Taoism told through the characters of “Winnie the Pooh” – I mean, does it get better? This is a speed read that you can easily whip through in a day, but trust me when I say that you will revisit it time and time again for its refreshing perspective on how to move in the world.
This book is perfect for high school, teaching us to live simply, love deeply, and be happy! With how obsessed some high schoolers can be with trends or the pressures of college, this book is a helpful resource to center oneself. Markle recalls when she read the book herself:
My mom gave me a copy of this book when I was 13 years old, and to this day, I constantly circle back to the Don Miguel Ruiz classic for the simplest ways to simplify your life. Don’t Make Assumptions gets me every time.
A bit more of a complex read, The Motivation Manifesto urges us to be true to ourselves and break away from any of life’s limitations. With college being a time that challenges all we’ve learned about the world and ourselves, it’s the stage when we start building our adult lives against the odds of competition in our dream careers and societal pressures. This book is perfect to share with your child who’s going away to college. Markle loves it herself:
Annoyed by your self-doubt and distractions? The noise that keeps you from reaching your potential? Okay, so yeah. Me too. Even on my most Sasha Fierce days there’s a mean little voice in there going, “Hmmm…I’m not sure if you can, or should, or if you’re good enough to.” Time to tell that little thief of joy to get outta your head. This book is a must-have for waking up your inner badass, and being the very best version of yourself.
A book to help guide young professionals through the pressures of starting and managing their futures, Who Moved My Cheese? is perfect for college graduates trying to navigate their lives with degrees and the knowledge that their young adult lives are coming to a close. Markle read the book in her own college years:
A professor at Northwestern University had this book on our list of required reading for an Industrial Engineering class I took my junior year of college. It was a seemingly odd choice, but at the end of the day, the takeaway was a self-empowerment and motivational bent that I apply to decision making in my life to this very day. It’s an invaluable quick read.
Long before she knew she would be starting a family with the man of her dreams, Meghan Markle has been building the perfect reading list to share with her children!
With book like these filled with such positivity and love in mind, I look forward to the next generation and what they will bring to the crazy world we live in.
After suggesting that clients’ cluttered books be discarded on her Tidying Up Netflix series and sparking an internet-wide outrage, organizational guru Marie Kondo decided to set the record straight in an interview with Indiewire.
“The most important part of this process of tidying is to always think about what you have and about the discovery of your sense of value, what you value that is important. So it’s not so much what I personally think about books. The question you should be asking is what do you think about books. If the image of someone getting rid of books or having only a few books makes you angry, that should tell you how passionate you are about books, what’s clearly so important in your life.”
While Kondo explains in the best-selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that she prefers to keep only thirty books at a time, she doesn’t necessarily impose this principle on anyone else. Her Netflix series instead emphasizes personal preference as she and her clients walk through the decluttering process together.
Kondo’s non-book hoarding mentality also stems from her cultural differences. She grew up in Japan, where the very humid climate damages books easily. She explains that the books themselves won’t even open because of it.
Image via Amazon
“I do think there is a misunderstanding of the process, that I’m recommending that we throw away books in the trash or burn them or something,” she added. “I always recommend donating them, so if that’s part of the misunderstanding, then that’s certainly being mixed up.”
Good save. I guess you get a pass this time, Kondo.
While putting her famous KonMari decluttering method to use on the new Netflix series, Tidying Up, she asks two writers regarding their home libraries, “Will these books be beneficial to your life moving forward?”
A considerable number of books were then discarded, and swarms of booklovers fired their shots across the Twitterverse.
Apparently tidying expert Marie Kondo is suggesting to throw away books…..
I just don’t trust someone who doesn’t understand the magic of books. (This is a Marie Kondo subtweet) Books come to us when they are supposed to and we read them when we are meant to. They are not interchangeable, indistinguishable blocks of text. pic.twitter.com/sW4rEUeute