Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Anne Perry (her 83 books have sold over 25 million copies) talks about Corridors of the Night, 20-page outlines, why you should put your heart on the page and so much more

Anne Perry is the international bestselling author of over 83 books, which have sold over 27 million copies.  The Times selected her as one of the 20th Century’s "100 Masters of Crime".  In 2015 she was awarded the Premio de Honor Aragón Negro.  Her first series of Victorian crime novels, featuring Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, began with The Cater Street Hangman.  The latest of these, The Angel Court Affair, is her most recent of many appearances on the New York Times bestseller list.
In 1990, Anne started a second series of detective novels with The Face of a Stranger. These are set about 35 years before the Pitt series, and feature the private detective William Monk and volatile nurse Hester Latterly. The most recent of these (21st in the series) is Corridors of the Night.

Anne won an Edgar award in 2000 with her short story "Heroes". The main character in the story features in an ambitious five-book series set during the First World War.  Her other stand-alone novels include her French Revolution novel The One Thing More, and Sheen on the Silk, which is set in the dangerous and exotic city of Byzantium. Moving into a different area, Anne has responded to requests for workshops and teaching by producing her first 'how to write' instructional DVD "Put Your Heart On The Page."

I'm so thrilled to have her here. Thank you so much, Anne!

What sparked the whole Monk series?

Monk's appearance and my feelings about him came from a dream.  He was a man I was always quarrelling with, and yet I trusted him absolutely to do what he believed was right, and knew he would never hurt me.  That started me thinking.  His predicament of having no memory came from wondering how much any of us are the sum of all that we have been, remembered or not,  I was held by the thought of being a stranger to yourself.  How much are we answerable for what we cannot recall?  Different people see any of us in widely different ways.  Many of us at some time ask........who am I?  And who is my enemy, who is my friend?

Did you ever imagine you were going to be this famous?
No, I certainly did not imagine I would be famous.  I don't understand it, but I am grateful, not for the fame, but that so many people apparently like what I write.  Yes, I worry about every book.  I go through stages of thinking it's good, then complete rubbish, then middling, then terrified it will be a flop.  Don't we all?

What kind of writer are you? Do you outline? Or do you wait for the muse?

I am very pleased you liked Corridors of the Night.  I care about it a lot because of the subject matter.  But yes, I outline in detail, fifteen or twenty pages of chapter notes, and backstory, and of course research, especially medical subjects in this story.   I have never waited for the muse!  Not sure I believe in it.  On the other hand, I do believe that the harder you try the more likely you are to have a stroke of good luck!   Or inspiration!

What do you think is the key to Corridors of the Night--and to life?

I believe love of all sorts, for people, animals, nature, art, life, is the center of everything.  If you don't love anything the most important part of you is dead.  It is caring that makes us do all the things we try, and keeps us at it even when it seems impossible we could succeed.In the story Hester has to be torn by her understanding of what the brothers are trying to achieve, and horror at the methods they are willing to use.  Monk's love for her means that he has to find at least some understanding of that also.

You are now teaching writing as well, right?

Yes I am creating several one hour long  How to Write videos.  I wish I had known some of these general guidelines earlier in my career!  And I love to teach, I often learn most by trying to concentrate my ideas to explain them to others. How did I know how to write my first book?  I didn't!  The Cater Street Hangman was far from my first attempt. It was simply the first to be published.  It was the first mystery, and I think the need for a strong plot line was the single factor that made the difference.  I am still very much learning as I go.

Put your heart on the page!  To me that means write what you believe, what you care about passionately.  Keep the core of it simple, and absolutely honest.  Don't set out to impress, only to share your deepest feelings about whatever is the subject of the moment,  sink yourself into the story.  Look into yourself, not outward to see who is watching  you.

What's obsessing you now and why?
Can I make the next book in some way the best yet?  Can I make it fresh, a little different, and will people care and think about what I am trying to say?  Each book should be something new.

What should I have asked you that I didn't?
Perhaps, what do I want to write about that I haven't yet?

In case you want the answers,   About the French Revolution and how all revolutions seem, in the end, to become even more violent and extreme that the people they overthrew.
The early Spanish Inquisition, and  how we seem to feel we have the right, even the obligation, to decide for other people what is best for them. Religiously, Politically, etc.  and then force them to do it.

And most of all at the moment, about the 1930s in Europe, where we danced blindly along the edge of light and darkness, and eventually fell into the terrible darkness of WWII.  So desperately like today, in so many ways.

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