Author interview: Peter Crittenden

1. Are there any books or authors that inspired you to become a writer?

The Razor’s Edge, by Somerset Maugham. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. An underappreciated novel that I love is Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart.

2. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Write! A writer writes, so do it – dedicate several hours a day. I get up early in the morning, before dawn, and write for several hours, when the mind is fresh.

The best way to improve writing skills is to write, write and keep writing. Study the great writers – Hemingway seems to be the standard for brevity and intensity, and for realistic dialogue.

3. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

People have offered all kinds of positive comments about my writing. Most recent comment about my novel ‘A Thousand Drops of Rain’ : “A great read! It filled my lungs with fetid jungle air as perfect prose dried the beads of sweat from my forehead …” A comment that stands out about my non-fiction book ‘Survival Mindset’ : “The Swiss Army Knife of survival manuals …”

4. Does writing energize or exhaust you? Or both?

Writing for me is physically exhausting. I attribute this to the energy consumed by the brain during the creative process, which is truly remarkable when you think about it.

By far the most difficult part of the writing process for me is getting that first draft part completed – full story from introduction, main body, summary to epilogue – that is the hardest part. Fleshing it out, adding content, editing out content and fine tuning it is easy.

5. Have you ever traveled as research for your book? Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

My writing is based on my experiences living and working around the world. As an ex-pat kid growing up overseas, later as a soldier and a security contractor, I have lived and worked on six continents. I can honestly say that I have actually slept on the ground on six continents. My stories take place in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, Central and South America, and of course North America. I often write about Southeast Asia, which is where I grew up.

6. How do you develop your plot and characters?

Odd concepts for plots come to me throughout the day. The plot I am currently working on explores the concept of the overarching tyranny of bureaucracy, through my character’s adventures. In developing the plot, I attempt to stand out from the action-adventure genre (which is what I write) by presenting thought-provoking dilemmas.

I believe the elements of a good story are thorough descriptions of environment to pique the reader’s imagination; realistic characters with hopes, fears, flaws and virtues that interact with one another; irony and dilemma, conflict and resolution, fear, failure & success; and dialogue like people actually speak; brief and incomplete with bad grammar and slang.

7. How long have you been writing or when did you start?

The question is how long have I been a published author? Answer: a little over a year now. I have always written short stories, ever since I was a kid, to entertain friends and for my own personal satisfaction. I wanted to be a writer when I was young, but felt I needed to experience some adventures to write about, and so I became a soldier, and later a security consultant. Soldiering and business take up a lot of time and it was difficult to write, until in 2015 when I was pulling maritime security duty on an oil rig off the coast of Africa. Then I had nothing but time on my hands and a work station where I could write – now the problem was I did not know what I wanted to write about and so I wrote about a retired soldier who wants to write his memoirs but he doesn’t know what to write about and he’s plagued by distractions; the story that became my novel, ‘A Thousand Drops of Rain’ developed from there.

In 2021 I found myself unemployed for six months (due to the Covid pandemic). Sitting around with nothing to do, it occurred to me that it was time to get serious about being a writer. I put together my non-fiction book, ‘Survival Mindset – A Guide on What to Do When Things Go Wrong’ and self-published. It later got picked up by Blacksmith Publishing, and they expressed an interest in my novel, which they also published.

8. What characters in your book are most similar to you or to people you know?

I confess, the characters in my books are all based upon people I know.

9. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to work on my land – there’s always something more that needs doing – and I enjoy the shooting sports. I also enjoy my work, which takes me all around the country, although not so many overseas assignments these days.

10. What was your hardest scene to write, and why?I wrote a sex scene, and kept it entirely symbolic – with no explicit terms or descriptions. It was relevant to the story, and provides entertainment value for the reader, however, I wrote it in such a way that my book would still be acceptable for a high school library, not even ‘R-rated’. Writing in such a manner, the words become like the strokes of an artist’s paintbrush. I did this as a challenge to myself as a writer, and will continue to do so in my future writing.

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