Peter Liney was born in Wiltshire but has spent a large part of his life overseas. He has written sitcoms for ABC and Channel 4, and drama for the BBC and South African radio. The Detainee is his debut novel. He lives in Salisbury.
Peter was kind enough to chat with me about INTO THE FIRE, the next book in his dystopian series.
Kristin Centorcelli: Book 2 of your dystopian trilogy, INTO THE FIRE (after THE DETAINEE), is already out in the UK, and will hit the US in 2015. Will you tell us a bit of what we should expect from this instalment, and our hero, Clancy?
Peter Liney: Mm, not easy without spoiling it for those who might be joining the trilogy with the mass-market paperback release of THE DETAINEE, but suffice to say that what looked like freedom turns out to be anything but. Clancy and the gang are faced with even more desperate authorities, whose methods of ridding society of those they don’t want and can no longer afford grow progressively more barbaric. INTO THE FIRE will also surely be remembered for the entry of one of the most disturbing villains of all time.
KC: Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us more about your background?
PL: I’ve always wanted to write and have always written. When I was younger I had an endless stream of jobs; some of these only lasted for a few days and have been expunged from my memory on grounds of stultifying boredom, others have proved very useful. Getting the TEFL qualification seems to be a well-travelled route for writers, and so it was for me. I taught everyone from Japanese pop stars to Italian football managers. But through all these various occupations, the one constant was that I never stopped writing.
KC: Why do you think people will connect with Clancy, and root for him?
PL: At heart (and I know it’s been extremely difficult to do so of late) I think we all believe in humanity and a greater Good – if not, why would we bother? Clancy is all about those old-fashioned human qualities: integrity, sacrifice, justice, valour. I also think that, like it or not, there’s something very attractive about a reformed hero with a murky past (I’m sure we can all think of examples in literature and on the big screen). The difference with Clancy is that he’s very real: who can resist a lonely old ex-hit man with self-esteem issues?
KC: What kind of research have you done for this series, and what have you enjoyed most about writing it?
PL: Well, they are works of fiction – and I do stress that – but I think you have to ground some aspects of your story in fact: believability is everything. With INTO THE FIRE in particular I spent a lot of time researching riots and rocket fuels and goodness knows what. The setting wasn’t as difficult as I’ve avoided saying where it is. Some people say it feels like America, but others think it’s obviously set in the UK. Personally, I thought it was . . . oh, I seem to have forgotten! The thing I’ve enjoyed most about the trilogy has unquestionably been writing the characters. I’ve loved every second in their company.
KC: Why do you think dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic stories hold such wide appeal with readers and movie-goers?
PL: Well, apart from being flavour of the month, I have to say I’ve pondered this one long and hard and never really come up with a totally satisfying answer. Certainly I think part of it is the thrill of being scared out of your seat, of being confronted with circumstances that in real life would have you reaching for the medicine cabinet whilst you munch on your popcorn. Perhaps the attraction to all that chaos and mayhem is also a reaction to the order we see about us. But I think more than anything, the question of whether or not it could really happen is an enticing one – and maybe that’s the attraction?
PL: This is such a difficult question; mainly, I think, because I’m not altogether aware of who – or what – my influences are. I was born in southwest England, in what Thomas Hardy called Melchester, but it was many, many years before I recognised how much of an influence that had had on me. I used to teach Japanese school pupils all about Hardy (Japan has one of the largest, if not the largest, Hardy appreciation society in the world). I’d wheel them off to the Dorchester area to see his birthplace and burial place (well, actually, just the burial place of his heart; his body is in Westminster Abbey), and of course, show them endless DVDs. Up until the point I saw Hardy dramatised, I’d always thought he was a bit too melodramatic. However, when you see Hardy on screen, you realise that A) he was a great and wonderfully imaginative writer, and B) he should’ve been born a hundred years later. The man was made for cinema – much more so than Dickens, for example. That affinity Hardy had with cinema (unexpected influence though that was) is obvious in a lot of my work. In fact, I’ve finished a first draft book called FRACTURES, which is, in its own quiet way, dedicated to that very influence.
KC: What are you currently reading?
PL: You know those books that suddenly appear in your bookcase though you’re not quite sure how it got there? One of those. They usually sit there for a while until I get around to reading them. This one is called BLOODLETTING AND MIRACULOUS CURES by Vincent Lam and I have to say I’ve enjoyed it as much as anything I’ve read for quite a while. Five stars.
KC: What piece of advice would you give to an aspiring writer? Is there anything that you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
KC: Well, if I’m anything, I’m a good example of ‘never give up’ – it took me twenty years to get published. Rejection doesn’t mean a thing. No one ever spoke truer words than the screenwriter William Goldman, who said, ‘Nobody knows anything.’ Realistically, the greatest book ever written will possibly never be read. The other thing I have to say is (if that wasn’t daunting enough): do not regard publication as the finishing line – it isn’t, that was just the first lap, there are many more to go.
KC: What’s next for you?
PL: Finishing the final book IN CONSTANT FEAR, which I’m absolutely delighted with, and . . . well, I can’t really talk about at the moment. But you’ll certainly hear.