TSM: How did your own passion for mysteries and reading help you develop the protagonist of Eight Perfect Murders, Malcolm Kershaw?
PS: Mal’s passion for reading is very autobiographical. If he likes a book, it means I liked that book. The similarities between us stop there!
TSM: Is the list of Eight Perfect Murders that Mal writes influenced by some of your own favorite mystery novels? What are your favorite mystery novels/authors?
PS: All the books on the list are books I’ve read and loved. My favorite mystery authors are Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, John D. MacDonald, Dick Francis, and Lawrence Block. That’s today’s list, anyway.
TSM: It is especially disturbing how you describe Mal as being so ordinary, yet as the novel progresses we see a darker side to his character. Did you begin your writing process planning on this shift, or did you make the story up as you went along?
PS: In almost all of my books I am making things up as I go along but for this particular book I knew the entire plot when I began writing. In fact, I knew the entire plot within an hour of coming up with the premise. I was out walking, thinking about murders from books that I loved, and the thing dropped in my lap. It changed a little along the way, of course, but the basic bones of the story did not.
TSM: Where do you find ideas and inspiration for your novels?
PS: Honestly, it’s a mystery to me. Sometimes I know where my ideas come from, but sometimes they just arrive from my subconscious. And most of my ideas are terrible, but every once in a while one of them sticks around long enough to become a book.
TSM: What does your research process look like?
PS: It looks like me doing a quick Google search, annoyed that I have to do any research at all. I’m not good at it. I’d rather just make things up.
TSM: When did you decide that you wanted to become a writer?
PS: In my thirties I decided that I wanted to try and write a publishable novel. But before then I’d always been a writer, ever since I was a little kid. Back then I wrote a lot of stories about monsters and creepy things that hid under beds, so I haven’t changed a whole lot in terms of subject matter.
TSM: Eight Perfect Murders is one of a few mystery novels you have written. What draws you to that genre in particular?
PS: Only that I love them, and always have. I like books that show the dark side of life, and I love the puzzle aspect of a good mystery. What other art form is somehow both scary and comforting at the same time?
TSM: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
PS: Get to the end of the thing you are writing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve written the most brilliant first chapter in the history of the world. If the final chapter isn’t written then that first chapter is meaningless.
Peter Swanson is the Sunday Times and New York Times best selling author of seven novels, including Eight Perfect Murders and The Kind Worth Killing, winner of the New England Society Book Award, and finalist for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, Her Every Fear, an NPR book of the year; and his most recent, Every Vow You Break. His books have been translated into over 30 languages, and his stories, poetry, and features have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Atlantic Monthly, Measure, The Guardian, The Strand Magazine, and Yankee Magazine.