Interview with Peter L. Abram

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in three primary locations. Althorpe Island lighthouse -a remote and rugged little rock off the coast of South Australia. That was paradise. Wilmslow in Cheshire, England which is a lovely town up north although it's very different to Althorpe Island! I also had a couple of years in small town Australia, near Melbourne before I joined the services at fifteen years of age. The lighthouse taught me how to deal with solitary pursuits, as there were usually less than a dozen of us living there. Writing is a lonely occupation and you have to be cool with that. Because I went on to be pretty much an inner-city dweller, and I mean the real grimy inner-city, and having a country boy's background, it's given me the capacity to switch my writing between extreme locations with relative ease. If my story's hero is confronted by a ruthless gang or lost in the harsh wilderness I don't have to research it, because I know it.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Jim Starkly character is someone I began toying with back in my Berlin years. I've given him my life, although hopefully we're very different people! He grew up on the lighthouse, joined the services, ended up on the streets, working clubs and raves and clashing with all the bad elements that world is made up of. He's thrown into a humiliating situation where he responds in the only way he really knows. Seeking vengeance, maintaining his honour and basically following his own logic. It doesn't take long before he ends up on the run and as events pan out, he's increasingly forced to examine his own code and his relationship with the world. The romance with Lena is fundamental to the drama, but it's inevitably Jim's story, told from his perspective.
When did you first start writing?
In the eighties in London and West Berlin I took my poetry and song writing very seriously, and I kept a journal in 1989. When I landed in Melbourne in 1992 I wrote the journal out as a semi-fictionalized memoir (kind of like the Wall coming down as seen by a street savvy nightclub promoter) and loved the process. I've still got that manuscript and it's a great reference book when I need a character or a storyline. I wrote scripts and radio plays just for the hell of it, and went on to write the little documentaries that we made. That was all wonderful. Trouble was, I didn't have the time to commit myself to writing anything really seriously. Nightclub promoters have to live a very extroverted lifestyle which is not at all conducive to penmanship. It's only been in the last three years that I've been able to make my writing the most important thing in my life.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I've just started so ask me that in twelve months time!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've only ever contacted two major publishers to propose working together and it went quite well. I was, however, eager to get this book out and decided to go the indie route. I think all writers will be hybrid writers in the future, so I wanted to get the experience before properly pursuing an established publisher.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
At the risk of sounding psychotic I love giving a voice to the madness in my soul. When one writes in the first person and the character is in situations that have their basis in real life events, no matter how loosely reconstructed those situations are, the gloves are off. It's a great way to really reflect on the dramatic arc that is your own personal past and bring characters and incidents back to life, albeit with an extra dash of colour and melodrama.
What are you working on next?
Try Catching Thunder is a stand alone book, as will the next one be. I'm working on it now and it is something of a spin-off as Jim Starkly is the main character, but it's not a sequel. Jim is a very person, in a different time and place, surrounded by a whole new cast.
Who are your favorite authors?
I met Charles Salzberg last year and he was great. Really inspirational and I love his books. Lawrence Block influenced me a lot. I like the Australian crime authors Peter Temple and Peter Corris. Growing up I read people like Hemingway and I've read every last thing F Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, including the short stories. I'm also a fan of criminals turned writer, like Iceberg Slim and Chopper Read. Lee Childs is really good and I marvel at the research he must undertake. I like Robert Crais, Patricia Highsmith, Harlen Coban and more. On the literary fiction front I tried reading Salman Rushdie his prose is great. I love the work of Christopher Hitchens. At the moment I'm trying to read James Patterson just to see what all the fuss is about. I love True Crime, especially 70s True Crime confessions.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
On the days I can devote to writing I fly out of bed at 430 in the morning, but other than that I find living in China to be enough inspiration to get a move on, as it's so interesting.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Living in this massive boarding school I'm pretty much engaged in working or planning work right up until the mid-evening, but I have a group of Local and Western Friends and we like to parade through the seedier clubs at all hours. I just have to go out in search of people and life after a week amongst the text books.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was about a haunted cave on Althorpe Island. A magical bird kept making children disappear in the cave until one boy realized the crime that the deputy lighthouse keeper had committed when he shot a Cape Baron Goose. That shooting really happened and it upset my parents no end inspiring me to write the story. Years later when I was able to start school on the mainland I showed it to a teacher and she hated it. I still think it was okay.
Published 2015-06-21.
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