TTS: The Top Shelf would like to welcome Peter Swanson to the blog! He’s here to talk about his books, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart and The Kind Worth Killing! Peter, it’s great to have you here.
Peter: Thanks for having me!
TTS: How did the ideas for these books come about? Were you doing something and they just popped in your head or are they based of something?
Peter: Almost all my ideas come in the form of What If questions. So the What If question for The Girl With a Clock for a Heart was: What if two graduating high school seniors switched identities before one of them headed off to college. And the What If question for The Kind Worth Killing was: What if a man and a woman met on a plane and the man confessed to her that he wanted to kill his wife. Both novels just rolled from those simple questions.
TTS: The Girl With A Clock For A Heart was originally a short story. You must’ve had quite a struggle lengthening it to turn it into the novel it is today. How hard was that? Can you tell us a bit about the process and how it went?
Peter: Yes, the original idea (about the high school graduates switching identities) became a short story that was published on a webzine. That story was read by my now-agent, who wondered if it could be expanded into a novel. I didn’t think it could be expanded, exactly, but I did wonder what would happen if the two main characters met again twenty years later. That is how the book became a thriller that takes place in two different time periods.
TTS: Both of these books are psychological thrillers. Do you feel that psychological thrillers are harder to write than action driven thrillers?
Peter: Not really. The challenge is the same, and that challenge is to keep the reader guessing so that they keep turning the pages. A thriller absolutely has to do that or it doesn’t work.
TTS: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart jumps frequently from the present to the past to tell the story. Do you feel that it would be a different book if it was told in chronological order?
Peter: At one point in the writing process it was pretty close to chronological order. I do think that the decision to shift it back and forth really helped it structurally. It added another layer of suspense.
TTS: With The Kind Worth Killing, you played with not only time but perspective. Was that a challenge you set forth for yourself? Were you like “Okay, I did this with my first book and I want to one up it somehow. Let’s try this!”?
Peter: I’ve always wanted to write a novel with shifting narrative perspectives. I think it gives you a lot of opportunities for narrative that you wouldn’t have otherwise. For example, you can hide information from the reader simply because the narrator doesn’t know that information. You can also show the same event from two different perspectives.
TTS: You also played around with narrative. In Girl with a Clock for a Heart, we got all the narrative from George whether it was past or present. In The Kind Worth Killing, we had like four different people narrating in a way that at points defied logic. Do you feel this was the better option to tell each story rather than third person?
Peter: Like I said, it presents all these opportunities that you don’t get when you have only one narrator, or the book is in third person. That said, I don’t think that shifting perspective is something I would do with every book I write, but I liked how it worked with The Kind Worth Killing.
TTS: I gifted my Fiancé both books and he said he wasn’t very fond of the narrator for The Girl but he loved the narrators for The Kind Worth Killing. He wants to know if you have any choice in the narrators for your books.
Peter: Yes, I definitely have a choice, but sometimes those narrators change as I write them, and develop their own personalities. George from The Girl was a classic hero in a femme fatale novel, meaning he was kind of clueless, and I know that a lot of people didn’t really like that. The narrators in The Kind Worth Killing are much more villainous but, for the most part, they drive the narrative of the story, instead of just letting things happen to them. I think that made them appealing.
TTS: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart has been optioned for a movie. Do you think they will put it in order like they did Stephen King’s The Green Mile or has there been talk of keeping it as it is?
Peter: I’ve had only one talk about the script for The Girl, and if I recall, the plan was to have the script flip back and forth in time as well. I think it would work well in the movie-version, but I think you’d have to make the time shift more like ten years instead of twenty, so that the actors would be able to pass as college-age and then in their late twenties.
TTS: Who would you cast to play George and Liana?
Peter: I just saw Theory of Everything with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones and think that they would make good versions of George and Liana.
TTS: You just released another book last month. The Kind Worth Killing was released on the 3rd of February. What are readers who are familiar with your work in for? What about those who are just reading you for the first time?
Peter: They should expect a very tricky thriller that will surprise them. That’s what I hope for, anyway.
TTS: Are you working on something now? What’s next for you?
Peter: I am currently working on a third novel. I can’t say much about it, except that it’s about a woman who moves from London to Boston and winds up in a very creepy apartment building.
TTS: It was great having you here Peter! Thank you for taking the time to let me interview you. I look forward to having you back here sometime in the future.
Peter: Thanks so much for having me here!
Synopsis: On an ordinary Friday evening at his favorite Boston tavern, George Foss’s comfortable, predictable life is shattered when a beautiful woman sits down at the bar, a woman who vanished without a trace twenty years ago.
Liana Dector isn’t just an ex-girlfriend, the first love George couldn’t quite forget. She’s also a dangerous enigma and quite possibly a cold-blooded killer wanted by the police. Suddenly, she’s back—and she needs George’s help. Ruthless men believe she stole some money . . . and they will do whatever it takes to get it back.
George knows Liana is trouble. But he can’t say no—he never could—so he makes a choice that will plunge him into a terrifying whirlpool of lies, secrets, betrayal, and murder from which there is no sure escape.
Synopsis: On a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the stunning and mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing very intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage that’s going stale and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. Ted and his wife were a mismatch from the start—he the rich businessman, she the artistic free spirit—a contrast that once inflamed their passion, but has now become a cliché.
But their game turns a little darker when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.” After all, some people are the kind worth killing, like a lying, stinking, cheating spouse. . . .
Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, namely her experience in the art and craft of murder, a journey that began in her very precocious youth.
Suddenly these co-conspirators are embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one they both cannot survive . . . with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.