Interview with Peter King

What are your five favorite books, and why?
1) The collected poems of TS Elliot, simply because it reminds me what great writing is. 2) The collected works of William Shakespeare, because of both the writing and the stories, which are classics. 3) God Knows by Joseph Heller, the funniest interpretation of Psalms ever. 4) Travellers Tales by Eric Newby (non fiction). A collection of short true stories by people away from home, through the ages.5) Dracula by Bram Stoker, which I regard as literature of the highest order. One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Outsider, The Satanic Verses, and the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series and Young Stalin (non fiction) would round out a top ten, if that's not cheating.
Which books have shaped your writing the most?
From a purely technical point of view Robert McKee's "Story", but strangely enough I found John Fowles' The Magus an excellent primer in story-telling techniques. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children introduced me to the wonder of magical realism while Dracula's powerful story telling technique drove home for me the importance of the narrator's role as testifier. I liked the way Harry Potter managed to combine humour, sympathy and invention to create excellent entertainment, even if, in the end the stories lack any real staying power.
Who are your favorite authors?
Is it too pointy headed to say Shakespeare? His characters are wonderful and his language superb. Weirdly I also like New York science fiction writer Robert Sheckley whose work has inspired so many others. His crazy ideas are truly mind expanding. I love the colour of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who manages to make the commonplace amazing. Ursula le Guin is another wonderful author. Her technique is subtle and while I find her characters lack definition her world's are powerful. I like historian Simon Sebag Montefiore who makes past events come to life with such amazing colour. And the understated dignity of Alexander McCall Smith's characters in the No.1 Detective Agency.
What sort of stories don't you like?
I'm not a fan of Stephen King. His mind scares me for being twisty but what bothers me most about his work is not so much him as his fans. Albert Camus has stared into deeper and scarier abysses of the human mind but because he wanted to understand the human condition, not provide entertainment for it. Maybe it helps to face real Nazis. I find Dan Brown annoying. It's like a robot going from action to exposition with the same monotonous and completely impossible tempo.
Strangely enough I've never really managed to get into Charles Dickens either. I think my mind rebels at the class structure of Victorian England and it's unremitting awfulness. Nor do I like Annie Proux's stories either, even though I admire her greatly. There is an annoying American habit of crapping on the protagonist and wallowing in his/her failings which I simply don't find entertaining. In the end I want to come out of a book feeling like the world is different to the place it was when I went in. In many of these cases I don't think it is.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand during the 1960s. New Zealand was relatively prosperous then, and although my parents were young and poor they still managed to build their own house on hill overlooking the surf beach of Lyall Bay. It was a place where kids just roamed for miles and nobody thought anything of it. New Zealand is a funny place because it doesn't take itself seriously as a nation. Patriotism is quiet and modest (unlike Australia's), not in anyone's face -- rather like Germany. It's a country of new arrivals and there is always plenty of room for newcomers to make a life there. You expect to meet Chinese, Indians, Polynesians (of course), and these days even Arabs and Africans. There is ignorance and racism (of course) but most people just get along and the school is the centre of the community in a way religious places are elsewhere. The idea of fighting a war because the others are black, Hutu, Shia, Catholic, Tamil, just seems ridiculous. I think all of this influenced Changels because the idea of life without discrimination just seemed completely achievable.
What is your writing process?
Some people may be able to sit in a quiet place in front of a blinking cursor and produce a first draft but I am not one of them. I wrote my 657,000 word novel (no, I am not exaggerating) on an HTC cell phone. I work full time but I have a reasonable commute so I wrote the whole thing on buses, trains, airplanes and in quiet moments, like sitting with my youngest as he fell asleep.
I am more of a pantser than a plotter. I know the critical turning points in the plot but I like to surprise myself along the way. That keeps me engaged as an author. As soon as I feel bored with what I'm writing I know it won't work. Admittedly this approach means you end up doing a lot more story editing to connect things up but it means you let more inspiration into the process. The idea of following a formula to create is, to my mind a contradiction. Ultimately the main thing is good baddies. So long as you have great baddies you can't go wrong.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The story is about a Maori boy named Sam Kahu. It starts at the end. Sam seems to be the sole survivor of a fire at a mansion where a group of refugees lives. But the police officer assigned to the case, a lesbian named Sue Williams, discovers Sam is totally unlike most teens when he not only tells her that her girlfriend is leaving her, but then travels clear across Auckland to prevent her killing herself when she takes too many sleeping pills. Slowly he starts opening up to her about his own troubled past and begins to slowly reel her into his incredible supernatural world.
For Sam is a Changel, equipped by the Fae to keep the Earth's future peacemakers safe so as to prevent a deadly war. But there are also other interests on Earth, and some of them are not so friendly.
Why do you write?
I write because I want to change peoples' minds. I want to entertain, sure, but I want them to experience an opening in their heads, feel a sense of discovery as a new aspect of the world is opened to them. These days so many people live in little bubbles of self-contented ( or not contented) nonsense. Their frame of reference on history, science, politics, geography is so narrow and they want to keep it that way. I want to open it, so they can see a wider reality.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Perfectly matching the inspiration with the words and feeling that you have something which is classic. It doesn't happen often but it's magic when it does.
What is the hardest part about being an Indie?
Marketing. I completely suck at that. I like creating a great book (as I see it) but telling everyone why it's great? Hate it.
Published 2015-08-21.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Dark Side
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 192,430. Language: English (New Zealand dialect). Published: March 31, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Paranormal
Earth's alien overlords are out to crush the Changels. In danger of being abandoned by their allies Sam turns to his psychic powers but he discovers his partner, the beautiful but manipulative Tahira, is way ahead of him. Has Tahira fallen to the dark side, and what must he do to help her?
The Crucible
Series: Changels Genesis, Book 6. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 124,960. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
As the community attempts to close down the mystery of the Renwick fire and resettle on Earth their enemies move quickly capture them. Only when it becomes clear they are planning to release a deadly a influenza epidemic does it become clear flight is not an option. Everyone, including Sue, must commit everything to prevent a massive plague. But that means a fight some will not survive.
Conjunctions
Series: Changels Genesis, Book 5. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 133,290. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Detective Sue Williams finds there are no limits to the battle between Sam's friends and the secret alien infiltrator society called Die Bruderschaft. Even her own brain becomes a battlefield as the enemy tries time and again to destroy the Changels - Earth's secret resistance once and for all. But as Sam's ongoing story reveals the dimensions of this conflict have no limits.
Into Darkness
Series: Changels Genesis, Book 4. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 134,180. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Once again Sue and Sam are safe but now Sam starts to explain that the Changels are not the only force at work trying to influence humanity's destiny. The shadowy alien infiltrator group, the Bruderschaft, are single-minded and utterly ruthless in using humanity for their purpose. But to find out how they tracked the Changels down Sam must confront them.
Renaissance
Series: Changels Genesis, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 82,870. Language: English. Published: June 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Sam tells Sue how his SAS veteran grandfather trained the three young psychics to use their alien-made equipment to teleport around the world. All the time as Sue struggles to contain her disbelief Sam knows their safehouse is vulnerable and very soon the powerful and shadowy forces hunting him will find them.
The Weaving
Series: Changels Genesis, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 108,150. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Social Issues
From the safehouse Sam tells Sue the history of the other psychic teens at haunted Renwick house, his own encounter with his father, and how Dr Prosperov's private high-energy physics experiment revealed the semi-magic weaving' of his interstellar conspiracy.
Initiation
Series: Changels Genesis, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 84,230. Language: English. Published: June 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Most teens feel alienated from time to time. But Sam Kahu is more alienated than most. For a start his home has burned down and all his friends and family are missing presumed dead. Worse, he knows they are out to get him, and if he doesn't successfully hide within the system he could find himself inside a UFO having his brain dissected.