In an interview with The Guardian, James discussed his “frustratingly middle class” upbringing as the son of police detectives in Jamaica. Despite being kept relatively safe from the turbulent social climate in Jamaica at the time, James did not fare too well in school, called names by the other students, and spending much time alone.
“My teenage years before college, I spent pretty much all of my time in my bedroom. I spent so much time there that my neighbours thought I did high school in America. I’d go to class, then I’d disappear. I’d just basically come home to eat dinner, sleep, draw comics.”
Image via Amazon.
His lack of success socially made certain comics, like X-Men, resonate with him. “They’re outcasts,” he says, “they’re outsiders, they’re disliked by a world that they’re still a part of. Even other heroes didn’t trust the X-Men. And that connected with me in a really, really major way.”
He goes on to explain that he “never read any of the foundational fantasy novels” as a child. “Those fantasy novels that you might have thought would be everywhere, like Dune and Lord of the Rings, really weren’t [in Jamaica]. I read whatever cheap crap got dumped on the third world. I didn’t have a community telling me, ‘Read this, read that.’ A lot of what I write about in terms of the fantastic I picked up from comics, particularly Marvel comics. And even that idea of a group of people banded together, which people think I got from Fellowship of the Ring, it’s more like X-Men or one of those anti-teams like Doom Patrol or Suicide Squad. Because comics were easier to get hold of than books.” `
It may be reassuring for any aspiring writers out there who feel like they don’t fit in, to know that even Man Booker prize winner and author of an incredible book, comparable to Game of Throne spent his teen years in his bedroom, in his own fantasy world!
My love for em dashes is so powerful that, if converted into energy, it could power this website through the upcoming and inevitable nuclear apocalypse. When I asked my coworkers what they thought of em dashes, staff writer Nathaniel Lee asked, “the pretentious dash?” Our CEO, Scott Richmond, added, “the only reason I don’t use them is that they’re too long. It’s all about the space conservation.” Much like my esteemed coworker, he is wrong.*
Let’s go back to grammar school, so y’all can get grammar SCHOOLED.
Parentheses. These are the basic bitches of the grammar world. If they were a statement piece, the statement would be no comment. Parentheses set aside parenthetical phrases—that is, phrases that are unnecessary for the meaning of the sentence. Commas and em dashes accomplish the same task, but em dashes get the points for sheer panache, baby! The whole point of parentheses is that they de-emphasize the nonessential phrase you’re setting aside. Example: Nasopharyngitis (the common cold) may be impossible to eradicate. Nobody’s that excited about the common cold. Come on.
Commas. These are just store-brand em dashes, watered down versions without all that spicy flavor. The comma is a neutral syntactical choice. You’ve heard of the dramatic pause? Get ready for the anticlimactic pause. Example: My girlfriend, a phenomenal cook, made a delicious sandwich. Is it newsworthy that your girlfriend is a phenomenal cook? Unlikely. My girlfriend—Belletrist babe and notorious reader Emma Roberts—made a delicious sandwich. Now, there’s a parenthetical phrase that would transcend commas. (Also, call me, Emma.)
Em dashes. Let’s consider what ‘nonessential’ actually means. Technically, stylistic choices like leopard print coats and pink hair are nonessential. But when you walk into a room, don’t they get the job done? Hell yeah. The air horn of the punctuation world, the em dash does the same thing as parentheses and commas but with an entirely different tone. Example: My sister—who slept with my husband—just asked me for money. Let’s try again: My sister (who slept with my husband) just asked me for money. Did this happen? No. If it did, would I have used an em dash to relay the info? You know it.
Image Via Grammarly
That being said, even my beloved em dash is not perfect. You know how books sometimes start off with sound effects? Bang. My ex-husband was dead. Wham! My sixteenth birthday, the day of the Trial that would determine my whole future, began when my jealous sister slapped me with my own Timesetter. You get the message. You can’t start off a book with bang! Wham! Crash! Boom! You could, but it would be annoying—and it’s possible you’re annoyed already. Similarly, you can’t fill an article with em dashes (though if you click anything by Krisdee Dishmon, you’ll realize I’ve certainly tried).
Time for Q&A. The major question people have seems to be ‘aren’t these interchangeable?’ That, of course, is a subcategory of all the more pressing questions. ‘Isn’t grammar pointless? Will someone ever want to date you?’ The answer to all three, as you might be shocked to learn, is a resounding NO.
Image Via Translabo Berlin WordPress
For the same reason that you wouldn’t use an exclamation point to conclude an uneventful sentence, you wouldn’t use an em dash for a job that parentheses can do. Can you? Sure. Should you? I say no. As Josh from Drake and Josh would say, it’s for emphasis. EMPHASIS! (Click here if you don’t get that reference.)
You may be wondering whether or not I have a right to this opinion: a passion for em dashes that, if converted into a numeric value, would dwarf the GDP of even the wealthiest nations. Yes, I do. They may not have hired me at my local coffee shop, but, as a creative writing graduate and former English teacher / SAT grammar tutor, I am good for something—even if that thing is yelling on the Internet.
*I respect you very much, Scott. I just also respect the commanding presence of the em dash.
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!
Benjamin Giroux always felt different because of his autism, and at times it made him stand out from the other children in ways he didn’t ask for. However, he has found a new way to distinguish himself- his literary superpower!
Viralslotshared a poem that a ten-year-old Benjamin wrote back in 2016 for class. His poem, “I Am,” amazed his teacher and gained him online supporters. It has gone viral since the last couple of years. It has even been shared and highlighted by the National Autism Association, and it deserves to keep being admired.
The poem reads:
I am odd, I am new.
I wonder if you are too.
I hear voices in the air.
I see you don’t, and that’s not fair.
I feel like a boy in outer space.
I touch the stars and feel out of place.
I worry what others might think.
I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink.
I am odd, I am new.
I understand now that so are you.
I say, “I feel like a castaway.”
I dream of a day that that’s okay.
I try to fit in.
I hope that someday I do.
I am odd, I am new.
Image via Viralslot
“Ben’s goal was to have people understand that being odd is different, and different is amazing, and people shouldn’t be afraid of who they are,” Sonny Giroux told Today. “And that makes me one proud father!”
There is a powerful kind of honesty and vulnerability that is displayed in Benjamin’s words. An inability to connect with people is hard. Admitting to wanting to, can be even harder. Benjamin surely just scratched the surface of his talents back in fifth grade. He will be one to look out for in the future ahead.
Dan Mallory is—in Dan Mallory’s own words—a man of discipline and compassion. Whatever else Dan Mallory may be seems to depend on who you ask. These are the facts that no one can obscure: Mallory’s novel under pseudonym A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window, debuted at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, the first debut in twelve years to secure this prestigious spot. The novel (and, by extension, Mallory) rose to even higher heights, securing a blurb from international sensation Stephen King: “One of those rare books that really is unputdownable.” Though the novel was released in January 2018, the film adaptation has already been shot. This, we know: Mallory is a staggering success. But this is what insiders are beginning to suspect: Mallory is more than your average storyteller—he’s a liar.
Image Via Nathan Rabin
In person, Mallory is gregarious and appropriately self-effacing: he knows how successful he is, and, since you couldn’t possibly miss how successful he is, the least he can do is to be charmingly modest about it. According to an exposé in The New Yorker, he can do a little more than that. Journalist Ian Parker asserts that Dan Mallory has lied about death and dysfunction in a manner far beyond the possibility of misinterpretation. According to Dan Mallory, he has two PhDs—making him a “double doctor,” as he would occasionally joke. But (also according to Mallory) these successes haven’t come without tragedy: he and his mother both have terminal cancer; Mallory himself has ten more years to live. His father is dead. Oh, and his brother killed himself. Here’s the plot twist greater than any from Mallory’s stories: all three dead family members are alive.
Image Via BBC
In a story that seems ripped straight from the scripts of Netflix’s Sick Note(a show in which Rupert Grint portrays a man who lies about having cancer, alternate name “What If Ron Weasley Was The Worst Person Ever”), Mallory went as far as to fake emails from his brother. His ‘brother’ acted as a go-between when Dan was in surgery for his cancer, keeping Dan’s workplace up to date on his condition and, more importantly, is a ruse.
One email from Jake, Dan’s brother, reads:
[Dan is having] complicated surgery with several high risk factors, including the possibility of paralysis and/or the loss of function below the waist.” But Dan has been through worse and has pointed out that if he could make it through Love Actually alive, this surgery holds no terrors. [Dan will eat] an early dinner of sashimi and will then read a book about dogs until bedtime. Dan was treated terribly by people throughout his childhood and teenage years and into his twenties, which left him a very deeply lonely person, so he does not like/trust many people. Please keep him in your thoughts.
When a colleague later asked how Jake was, Mallory reported that Jake had killed himself.
Since, according to Mallory’s Oxford professors, Jake had died years before of complications with his equally fictional cerebral palsy, this sets up a perplexing timeline. Mallory had used his carefully-crafted tales of personal tragedy to earn acceptance to Oxford University. When the tactic failed to work on Princeton, Mallory sent a strongly-worded email—the strong words being, in this case, “you heartless bastards… not that I ever seriously considered gracing your godforsaken institution with my presence.” Is this one of those instinctual patterns where the egotistic and delusional lash out when they don’t get what they want? We can’t say. It appears that Mallory has always gotten what he wanted—no matter what tactics he used.
Mallory claimed in an email that Jake had been with him through a seven-hour nighttime surgery (though most surgeries of the nature he described do not take place overnight). At the same time, Jake posted pictures online of himself at an event. Jake claims that this email exchange never happened.
Image Via The TELEGRAPH
Mallory did not complete his doctorate at Oxford. (Of course, he did come back from the U.K. with a fake British accent. and a sudden impulse to do things like ‘take the lift’ and ‘use the loo.’)Though he did attend Oxford University, he left, due to his mother’s illness. According to Mallory’s father, Pamela Mallory did indeed have serious cancer throughout her son’s high school years. When asked what she thought of the matter, Pamela shut down the conversation before it began: “we’re not doing that.” The other half of Mallory’s ‘double-doctorate’ was a PhD in psychology—specifically, he claimed to have studied Munchausen’s Syndrome, a condition in which a patient pretends to have a physical or mental illness though they, in truth, have invented the symptoms. Mallory, apparently, invented this degree.
Mallory frequently gained job qualifications by lying about his qualifications and falsifying employment offers in order to pressure publishing companies into hiring him. When confronted about the job offer he did not receive, Mallory complained the woman who revealed the truth was a liar, angry because he had refused her sexual advances. A colleague expresses her doubts: “Once [the job offer] fell away, then you obviously think, Is he really ill? Even to the extent of ‘Does his family exist?’ and ‘Is he even called Dan Mallory?’” The truth was that Dan Mallory was really ill—it just wasn’t with cancer.
Mallory’s formal apology, if that is the appropriate name for it, addresses only his disingenuous battle with cancer. It does not address the cups of urine he allegedly left in his boss’ office directly before leaving his position. It does not address the email, also attributed to Mallory, calling a former co-worker “one of the nastiest c*nts in publishing.” It doesn’t address the suicide of his brother or the death of his father. It does address his bipolar II disorder, an illness he positions as the precarious keystone of his overarching lie:
It is the case that on numerous occasions in the past, I have stated, implied, or allowed others to believe that I was afflicted with a physical malady instead of a psychological one: cancer, specifically. My mother battled aggressive breast cancer starting when I was a teenager; it was the formative experience of my adolescent life, synonymous with pain and panic.
I felt intensely ashamed of my psychological struggles – they were my scariest, most sensitive secret. And for 15 years, even as I worked with psychotherapists, I was utterly terrified of what people would think of me if they knew – that they’d conclude I was defective in a way that I should be able to correct, or, worse still, that they wouldn’t believe me. Dissembling seemed the easier path.
Like many afflicted with severe bipolar II disorder, I experienced crushing depressions, delusional thoughts, morbid obsessions, and memory problems. It’s been horrific, not least because, in my distress, I did or said or believed things I would never ordinarily say, or do, or believe – things of which, in many instances, I have absolutely no recollection.
Esteemed psychiatrist Nigel Blackwood of King’s College London is perfectly willing to believe that Mallory has bipolar disorder. He’s just unwilling to believe that the disorder is the basis for Mallory’s deception—or that it’s a reasonable excuse. Patients may experience “periods of inflated self-esteem,” but, he emphasized, “[hypomanic episodes] cannot account for sustained arrogant and deceptive interpersonal behaviors.”
But literary agent Chis Parris-Lamb put it best: “if he is one of the lucky ones who has managed to get his disease under control and produce a best-selling novel—if he is stable and lucid enough to do that—then he is stable and lucid enough to apologize to the people he lied to and the people he hurt.”
Given that mental disorders already buckle under the weight of stigma, Mallory’s claims are unhelpful at best. At worst, they’re as damaging as his everything else—the lies, the tragedy, and the piss cups.