How I Write: Peter Robinson
Published: August 1, 2003
|On writing a series: There are a lot of challenges in writing a series of novels with one central character. One is constantly aware that the character might not be interesting enough, might not sustain the reader's interest over 13 novels. I try to avoid that; as I said earlier, you dig a little deeper into the character. But the other thing is, I like to make every book a little bit different. I don't like to follow a formula structurally or in any other way. So what I'll do is, though Banks is the main character, there will be characters who, for example, appear for just one book and have a strong viewpoint or voice. So by working in third-person multiple viewpoints, I can sometimes put Banks in the background a little bit and focus on some of the other characters. So that's one way of doing it.|
I suppose a problem is if you're writing in first person, you can't really move away from that voice. So to write a first-person series, it has to be an interesting voice.
The thing about making Banks believable and making him grow and age over a series is that it doesn't all come out at once. There has to be a sense that there's still more. So you can't bring out huge amounts in every book.
More on research: I have friends in the police now that I can ask questions, but I tend to write the story the way I want it, and then I'll say, "Look, I want Banks to do this, this and this; how can I get away with it?" And if they say, "Well, no, you might have to do this," then I can change things a little bit. So mostly I do the research after the book. And there are many ways of finding things out. There are some very good textbooks on forensics; the Web is probably the easiest way to find them. There's a lot of information on the Internet, various forensic sites.
Influences: When I first started reading mysteries, I read Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon and I was struck by how well they wrote, Chandler in particular, and how much you could actually do with the mystery form. Those are two very different writers but you've got Simenon doing a lot of atmosphere and human psychology--there's a great depth of understanding in [his Inspector] Maigret--and Chandler's Philip Marlowe has this sort of world-weary romanticism. And I thought, these are people who are writing novels that make you want to keep turning the pages, yet they are saying something about the human condition and the human mind.
--Posted Aug. 1, 2003