Peter Swanson is the author of two edge-of-your-seat thrillers: The Girl With A Clock For A Heart and the new novel The Kind Worth Killing.
So far we’ve heard nothing but brilliant things about The Kind Worth Killing. This tightly plotted novel is a story of trust and betrayal and is as gripping as they come. We were lucky enough to catch up with Peter and ask him about his new book, his career and the thriller genre.
An Interview with Peter Swanson
How did you get into writing?
Reading Roald Dahl when I was very young made me want to be a writer. I loved the poems (songs, really) in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and wrote several terrible knock-offs. I’ve been writing ever since.
Can you tell us a bit about your new book?
It’s about a man and a woman who meet in an airport bar in London. They strike up a conversation that carries over onto the flight they’re sharing. They decide to tell each other the complete truth, which leads to the man telling the woman that he’d like to kill his wife. She tells him she’d like to help.
What do you think makes a good thriller?
On a very basic level, it’s all about making the reader want to find out what happens next. If a thriller doesn’t have this, then it’s not working. After that, it’s about character — a great character can turn a decent page-turner into a classic page-turner.
The question of who to trust has been cropping up in a number of thrillers recently. What do you think makes this theme so compelling?
It’s about character. A compelling character has many sides and many secrets, and that always leads to trust issues. Trust is also a component of gothic fiction, and domestic noir, both of which have always been popular, long before Gone Girl. Think of Daphne Du Maurier’s great novel Rebecca, which is all about the fear that the person you are in love with is untrustworthy. It’s just a great theme, really, one that almost anyone can relate to.
Who or what inspires you?
In terms of writing, other writers. I’m always reading — usually thrillers — and reading a great book inspires me to write.
Do you have a favourite character in The Kind Worth Killing – one you particularly enjoyed writing about?
When I began writing the book, I thought the protagonist (for lack of a better word) was Ted, the man who wanted to kill his wife. Lily, the woman he met on the plane, was a secondary character — a very important one, but still secondary. That changed pretty fast and Lily became the central focus of the book. She was my favourite character to write, by far. Even though she’s a very villainous character, I really enjoyed her view of the world.
If you could recommend one book you’ve read recently, what would it be and why?
Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith. It’s a novel from 1957 about a very dysfunctional, very murderous marriage. A great slow burn thriller.
You’re also a successful poet. Do you prefer writing poems or novels? What made you turn to novels?
I don’t write much poetry these days. I prefer writing novels now, by far. There’s something about being in the middle of a big story and getting back to it day after day that is very satisfying. Maybe poetry is too hard. Great poems need a great idea behind them and then perfect execution. Every word needs to be right. It’s daunting.
Who would you love to see play the main characters in a film adaptation of The Kind Worth Killing?
Amy Adams as Lily would be perfect I think. After that, maybe Michael Fassbender as Ted, Jennifer Lawrence as Miranda, and Chris Pratt as Brad. I’m shooting big, as you can tell, but this is just a fantasy cast.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on a new thriller right now. It’s about a woman who does an apartment swap and ends up in a very frightening apartment building. That makes it sound supernatural but it isn’t.
A huge thank you to Peter for taking the time to answer our questions!
Tomorrow evening join Peter Swanson and Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train, for a night of suspense at Topping & Company Booksellers in Ely. Find out more here.
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson is out now (Faber, £14.99).