Peter Luther is an author of exquisitely crafted and electrifying supernatural thrillers. Peter, who lives in Cardiff has been referred to as the 'Welsh Dan Brown'. AmeriCymru spoke to Peter about this comparison, and other matters including his forthcoming novel 'The Vanity Rooms'. ( Visit Peter's website here )
AmeriCymru: In what way has your background as a lawyer ( attorney) helped you as a fiction writer?
Peter: In my opinion there is no better training for writing fiction than being a lawyer. You meet interesting people and encounter a lot of unusual situations.Dark Covenant mirrors the rough and tumble of my career as a practising solicitor, but the law does spill over to my other novels. There is an understanding probate solicitor in The Mourning Vessels, and a stressed criminal solicitor in Precious Cargo.
I also think being a lawyer hones your analytical skills: my stories have very tight plot structures, with strict rules within the bizarre world I have created. I’m sure this is partly as a result of my legal training. On a general note, I think life experience is very important for being a novelist. I tried writing in my early twenties, but when I returned to it in my late thirties my perspective was far more rounded.
AmeriCymru: All your novels so far have been set in Wales. Is there any particular reason for that or is it just familiarity with the area?
Peter: I do a lot of signings in England, and the readers I meet are always pleased to see a story set in Wales. I don’t think there are enough of them east of the Severn Bridge. It’s a beautiful, dramatic country with inexhaustible sources of inspiration.
The Mourning Vessels is set in Tenby, probably my favourite place in the whole world. The majority of my scenes are however set in my home city of Cardiff, which is because of my familiarity with the area.
AmeriCymru: Are you a horror fiction fan? Are there any particular horror writers whose style you admired or were inspired by?
Peter: I’m not a horror fiction fan per se, but I love anything that is original and well-conceived. In this respect I was very influenced, along with the rest of my generation, by the early Stephen King novels.
The Mourning Vessels involves bereavement counsellors visiting the recently bereaved and offering to ‘solve’ their grief, which they achieve by trapping the departed in the things they coveted in life. These objects - clocks, typewriters, even a bespoke Cluedo board (or is that Clue in America?) - then turn evil and leprous. This has more than an echo of Pet Semetery. It’s sort of a Pet Semetery with antiques...
AmeriCymru: You are quoted as saying that your novels are 'human interest stories masquerading as horror fiction' - what do you mean by that?
Peter: 100,000 words of things that go bump in the night would leave me asleep on my Mac. I need to write about the things that are important to me, which have relevance to my own experience. My characters are ordinary folk with all the ordinary problems: career, money, bereavement, fertility, parenthood. This gives the books what I would describe as their emotional heart, which hopefully leaves a mark on the reader even after all the paranormal conceits and puzzles have been digested, and which saves them from being left on train seats...
AmeriCymru: Could you have written your characters, their relationships and situations in a non-genre drama or in other genres? If so, what do you think you would have to change, if anything?
Peter: That’s a difficult question. If I have a talent, it is that I can take a completely off-the-wall concept and make it believable, and so I cannot really imagine writing in any other genre. With the supernatural anything is possible, and that’s what holds my interest.
That said, I can see myself writing a legal/corporate thriller one day, but it would need to have a very unusual angle.
AmeriCymru: You described your first novel, Dark Covenant , as "a parable of materialism" and your second, The Mourning Vessels, as "a parable of bereavement" - would you describe these as moral tales?
Peter: I wouldn’t be as pretentious to suggest my novels are moral tales, but they certainly have a message. Perhaps the message is a personal one, that I’m writing letters to myself.
In Dark Covenant a struggling lawyer makes a pact with the Devil through the crossword in a lifestyle magazine built from his desires. For me, the magazine represents the contracts we all make in life. We all bargain our time, and sometimes our principles, for the things that we need. For the things that we think that we need. The story is essentially Faust with a modern twist.
The Mourning Vessels was inspired by the loss of my parents. I lost my mum on Christmas Day 2004, and my dad succumbed to grief on Christmas Day 2005. During the year he was alone he created shrines to her memory, from photographs and the little things that she treasured. I didn’t think it was healthy. The book is very much about dealing with bereavement, and I suppose if there’s a message it’s that you need to let go. Remember the ones you loved with a smile, not with pain and torment.
Precious Cargo was based on another sad time in my life: my experience with IVF. There’s a chapter in the book called ‘the imagined child’, because I believed I could see my unborn child’s face, that the child was so close. We tried four times then gave up, because carrying on would have damaged us, I think. Sometimes you need to accept the cards life deals you, and be happy. Anyway, that’s what I believe.
AmeriCymru: how did you imagine the fantastical devices and sinister 'toys' in Precious Cargo?
Peter: I honestly don’t know. These screwball ideas come naturally, if that’s the right phrase...
AmeriCymru: You have been referred to as the 'Welsh Dan Brown'. How do you feel about the comparison?
Peter: My novels have some codes and puzzles, but that’s really where the similarity ends. Mr Brown has a very readable style, but I confess that I find his historical subject matter more interesting than the plot and the characters. That could be because I now read modern fiction with an editorial, critical eye; for this reason I much prefer reading classics or history, when I can completely turn off.
AmeriCymru: We learn from your website that you are working on a fourth novel ('The Vanity Rooms') at the moment. Care to tell us anything about that?
Peter: This is the third novel with my main character Tristyn Honeyman, an ex-Baptist minister from North Wales and a sort of spiritual detective.
The demonic society he encountered in the The Mourning Vessels and Precious Cargo are now posing as an arts charity, giving struggling artists free accomodation. This is in a building in Cardiff Bay once occupied by a chapter that escaped from Revolutionary France, who were obsessed with the Roussean concept of ‘amour propre’, or self image.
The apartment comes with a mobile phone, which has some unusual functions and a strange address book. Both apartment and mobile are infested by the eighteenth century chapter, who are determined to find the true meaning of celebrity, that exclusively human need to be admired.
I know, it’s not the work of a well man...
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the members and readers of ameriCymru?
Peter: Thank you so much. I’m trying to do something a little different, and I’m writing in a very unfashionable genre: the supernatural thriller without vampires. Your support means everything to me.
Peter Luther on Amazon
Peter Luther on Amazon
by Luther. Peter
by Peter Luther
by Peter Luther