Q&A with Pete Adams – Dead No More

I have a review coming up for this book, but was lucky enough to get the opportunity to put a few questions to author Pete Adams about writing, reading and his stories.

First, here is Dead No More:

Blurb: Operation Rhubarb was an MI5 and Scotland Yard joint undercover investigation of Brockeln Belland, a City of London Bank of impenetrable pedigree, that was brought to a violent close ten ago.

One survivor of the blast, now 16-year-old Juliet, is seeking the truth about her parents’ death. As the old case notes land on a Scotland Yard Detective Inspector’s desk, Juliet’s back door inquiry opens a deadly can of worms that the Establishment presumed buried.

Soon, secrets about the 200-year-old institution begin to come to light. But can they take down whoever is behind the crimes, and find out the truth about Juliet’s family?

Without further ado, here is Pete Adams to tell us more…

Billy Liar film poster

As a writer:

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to start?

The problem with being an old fart is the memory plays tricks with you, like, I can remember when I first realised I was handsome, but when I started writing I had to calculate at around 2012 – so, nine years ago, just after I smashed my mirror, because it told lies…

What inspired me to start? Very likely the film Billy Liar. I was, and probably still am, that character. As a child I used to get a Red Rover bus ticket around London, my imagination running riot. It then took me ages to get to actually write but once I started, Billy was there with me…

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Be true to yourself. There is a lot of pressure for a writer to reproduce what an Agent or publisher tells you will sell and, as an author, starting out, there is subliminal pressure (often self-imposed) to mimic a favourite writer’s style. Life in writing is not easy so, in my view, at least enjoy what you do and stand up and say, this is me (not what my mirror says).

What comes first – plot or characters? And what is your writing process like – are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am a pantser (I went to a think tank once and said I was a Panzer – they kicked me out). I never could plot a book and this held me back from starting writing as all the advice I had was, have a mind-map. Then I heard an interview with John Connelly and he said he could not mind-map and just started with chapter 1, and looked forward to seeing where it went; I started writing immediately after hearing that.

I mostly start with a Title – I love titles, they enthuse me. And then, my characters drive the plot – I have a file of titles that all suggest a book for me…

When writing a series how do you keep things fresh, for both your readers and yourself? Do you find it more challenging to write the first book in a series or to write the subsequent novels?

I rarely set out a target number of books in a series and I am never afraid to stop. Kind Hearts and Martinets is a five book mini-series but it spawned three more series that take some of the characters further and introduce others. So, I have no plan. I do not fear running out of ideas – Billy would not allow that.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? If you were to write a spin-off about a side-character, which would you pick?

Probably you would expect me to say Jack, Jane, Dick, Darcy, Austin – the fat, ugly, one eyed detective who has never solved a crime in his life, but you would be wrong, although I do enjoy writing for him. For me it is the female roles that I enjoy writing and, top of that list would have to be the long suffering, over a short time, Det Superintendent Amanda Bruce. Jack Austin is a foil and, if you read all of my books (in order) you will see that the female characters are strong and drive the plots.

As a reader:

Have you ever had reader’s block?

Yes – When I write or read, it usually comes in energetic episodes, suffering as I do with procrastination, but now I have an ointment for that… The difficulty with reading is, I am slow, although I no longer follow the words with my finger, this being better utilised scratching my head. I find that I get absorbed in a book and that is my excuse for my speed. But, I do, as a consequence, write what I hope are perceptive reviews.

Who is your favourite author and why?

My go to, nearly always, is, P G Wodehouse. How he could weave a story around a simple concept and, it always feel fresh. I like how he builds his characters and, I like his sentence and paragraph structuring…

What are you currently reading?

Sealed with a Death by James Silvester. I know this writer and I like his sort of ‘cold-war’ type, no nonsense, espionage stories.

Do you prefer eBooks, printed books, or audiobooks (as a reader rather than a writer!)

I read more eBooks these days although I do prefer to hold a real book and, when you fall asleep reading in bed, the real book doesn’t hurt so much when it falls on your head.

Audiobooks I would probably listen to in the car on a long journey, but otherwise I prefer to read. My books are popular on Audible, so, I have to say, yes, I lurve them.

Are there any books that you have read more than once in your life?

Not many, but Wodehouse is up there.

With regards to THIS book:

What did you edit out of the final draft of this book? Or what is a significant way this book has changed since the first draft?

This is my 8th book (my 9th just published) and books 10 and 11 are written.

When I started out writing, I made many changes, shifted things around, all of which I put down to fear and a lack of confidence. However, these days, and especially with Dead No More, it just rolled off the page and that is a wonderful feeling. I do, however, spend a lot of time editing my manuscript before I send to my publisher. And then, it is the nervy wait for the first responses from my editor.

I did think at one time that the start of Dead No More was slow, but it was just my imagination, and the opening pace is actually important as a firm foundation before it really speeds up.

In this book, my characters have more depth, more hurt, and I found myself being more seriously engaged; like a grown-up writer.

Can you share with us something about the book that isn’t in the blurb?

Yes – Rhubarb is a Code Name that is more than just a title for a police and security services operation. It is Germanic in its root. It sounds light, especially when we get to crumble and custard, but it is an example of British light humour to deal with something that is truly dark and, it is a discreet code for the identity of the perpetrators.

What was the inspiration for this story?

If I told you I am not sure you would believe me, but here goes – Nakka is an East End of London man, a constable in the Met Police, mounted division, who just loves the simple life, his family and, especially horses – it was the pic below that suggested the character:

Life happens to him…

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

There is planned a direct sequel, to be called A Misanthrope’s Toll. However, this mini-series generates a new spin-off series which does not include Nakka but the secondary players take the lead, along with some new players that I absolutely love. Notably a DI in Scotland Yard, Serious crime Unit, nicknamed Lilac (from Dead No More). Lilac appears also in a brand new series called An Avuncular Detective, and this new series commences with a 2 part story called Murder in a Royal Peculiar (Parts 1 and 2). Part 1 (my 11th book is finished and will go to my publisher likely in a weeks’ time), titled: A Choir of Assassins – Seven fingers – Seven Sisters. Book 2 is: Extreme Unction – Requiem – Widow’s Weeds and this is started.

How would you describe the ideal reader for your books?

First and foremost an open mind.

I like a reader who will appreciate characters that are just a little larger than life. A plot that sometimes veers from the real to the surreal, but just enough to reinforce the plot and the underlying themes. In a recent review I was referred to as “The Salvador Dali of thriller writers”. I liked that because so often in a Dali painting, although sometimes appearing bizarre, you know what is happening and, most importantly, the picture stays with you.

My stories are, I feel, multi-layered and themes translate throughout each book. A reader can find in one book a reference to another and have an “Oh Yeah” moment; another brick in the wall. Even in Black Rose, set in 1966 East End London, germs of characters and organisations begin that come to realisation in other books, particularly in Murder in a Royal Peculiar. 

My books can be read simply as a story, as standalone novels, but right from book 1, there is a driving and underlying narrative. Some have written to me and see it as a social conscience, others as building the strength of the female characters. Both would be correct and, Extreme Unction will formulate the climax of just that.  

People see my books as funny, comedic even, but when I give talks about my writing, I title the talk: “Funny way of being serious” – it is using the Peter Ustinov quote: “Comedy is a funny way of being serious.”

Believe it or not, I am a serious man, even more so since I smashed the mirror.

Thank you, Pete, for that unique and characteristically entertaining peek behind your creative veil. I’m thrilled to hear you have so many more books already underway for us to look forward to!

Readers can follow Pete Adams on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

Dead No More is out on Amazon right now!

Check the following links to find my thoughts on Pete Adams’ Kind Hearts and Martinets series:  Book 1, Cause and Effect; Book 2, Irony in the Soul, Book 3, A Barrow Boy’s Cadenza, Book 4, Ghost and Ragman Roll and Book 5, Merde and Mandarins; Larkin’s Barkin Book 1, Black Rose and Dada Detective Agency Book 1, Road Kill.

Oh, and don’t forget to pop back and visit me again later this year, when I will be bringing you my review of Dead No More!


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