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1. Congrats on your fifth novel. How far ahead did you plan Peter’s story when you first started writing The Drifter? How much further do you hope to go? Do you have an ending in mind for Peter?
Funny thing, but when I started The Drifter, I wasn’t planning the start of a series. I’d written three other novels I couldn’t get published, and I didn’t think The Drifter would be any different. My agent thought Peter Ash was something special, though, and so did my publisher, who asked me for the second in a series. Now I’m working on the sixth.
As to how the series evolves, I never plan past the book I’m writing right now. I do feel like the series has a lot of life to it, because it’s not rooted geographically and the subject matter varies so widely – from the economic crash to experimental technology to the newly-legal cannabis industry to race and class and music in Memphis, and now to Iceland. I’m definitely not planning an end any time soon, although I do think I’ll write a standalone one of these days, just to keep things fresh.
2. Who is Peter Ash to you? How did his character come to be?
I was working as a freelance home inspector in Milwaukee – the guy you hire when you buy a house, to tell you what’s wrong with it – and I had all these clients who were veterans coming home after the Surge. Some of them were doing just fine, but others were really struggling – some physically, some mentally and emotionally. I’d followed the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but to my shame, I realized that I (like most Americans) hadn’t given much thought to the lives of the men and women we’d asked to fight those wars, and the challenges they faced coming home.
It’s a strange thing, but strangers often tell me their secrets. Maybe it’s because I’m really interested in people, but it’s also probably because they think they’ll never see me again. And I ask a lot of questions. Over the course of several years, these veterans told me so many profound things about themselves, their fears and their hopes, things they might not ever tell their fellow veterans, their civilian friends, even their loved ones. And I kind of fell in love with them, these brave young people who really had no idea what they’d signed up for, and what it might cost them. So I began to write about it. And Peter Ash, a Marine Corps veteran with post-traumatic stress, was born.
3. One big reoccurring factor I see in your books is PTSD. Is that something you’ve come across in your personal life? (If not, then why is it a big focus in your books?)
I don’t have post-traumatic stress, and I’m not a veteran. But I’ve had my share of challenges, and writing about PTS is a very dramatic way to talk about the challenges that we all face. We’ve all had moments of profound fear and panic. We’ve all had experiences that haunt us.
As I said above, I know many people with PTS, and I’ve read a great deal about it. There are as many different forms of PTS as there are people who suffer from it. And it’s not just combat vets, it’s folks who’ve been through any kind of traumatic experience like assault or a natural disaster. There’s scholarship now that indicates that many kids who grow up in bad neighborhoods also suffer from PTS – if you fear for your life on the way home from school every day, it has a real effect on the rest of your life.
The other reason PTS is an ongoing issue for Peter Ash is that it’s an ongoing issue for many veterans. So many people have told me that the experience of combat never leaves you. I talk with Vietnam vets who have been struggling with PTS for fifty years, every damn day. I want to help mainstream Americans understand what that’s like. Many vets reach out to me to thank me, to say that, in a way, I’m telling their own stories. Those conversations mean a lot to me – it’s the best part of being a writer. (I’m easy to find on Facebook or Twitter, by the way.)
4. As a Marine myself, I’m not complaining, but I have to ask. Why did you pick the Marine Corps?
One of my dad’s oldest friends was a Recon Marine in Vietnam, and is the first man I knew who really talked about his time in the service. He’s a physically imposing guy who did two tours, including some seriously classified missions he still can’t talk about. He made sergeant, got busted back down to E-2, and left the service as a captain – quite a career. He’s also smart, funny, and driven, and he can really turn on the charm. He went on be a very successful salesman, running a company with his wife for many years. He’s in his mid-seventies now, retired, but the Corps is still very much a part of him.
He is why Peter Ash is a Marine.
5. What is next for Peter? Will he be a wanted man in your next novel?
Good question! I’m behind schedule on the new book, so I’m not very far along. I’m a little superstitious about a book-in-progress, which means I try not to talk about it too much. But Peter is definitely a wanted man in Peter Ash #6.
6. Do you have anyone in mind to play Peter Ash if a movie or show was adapted?
Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jon Bernthal come to mind. At one point, Michael B. Jordan was interested, wanting to know if he could flip the races on all the characters in The Drifter – which I’d be open to, because Jordan and his partners are so talented. Mostly, I think the character needs an actor who can show that essential combination of toughness and vulnerability.
7. What do you do with your time when you’re not writing?
Like all writers who produce a new book each year, I spend a LOT of time at my desk. I do love to travel, either into the backcountry with my son or on trips with my wife, who is no longer interested in sleeping on the ground. Otherwise, when Wisconsin weather permits, I’m on my mountain bike, which is my favorite adrenaline rush. I’m not that talented a rider, though – I had a spectacular wipeout last year resulting in a pretty substantial shoulder surgery. The doctor told me he usually sees my type of injury in hockey players and car accidents. I was going pretty fast when that damn tree jumped out at me.
8. With Lima Charlie, I get to work with a lot of up and coming authors. What advice do you have for someone who is just starting to write?
Read a lot. Like a LOT, and not just in your genre. That’s how you’ll really learn to write. One of the deeper things that really made a difference for me was to pick a book that really spoke to me, then write a basic beatline for the book. This taught me character development, structure, storytelling, pacing. I still try to do one of these every year.
Also, turn off your damn phone, and turn off the internet while you’re writing. If you want to make something new, you have to step away from the world and get into your imagination. Writing is a discipline and a devotion that requires deep focus and an open mind.
Last, write every day – even just 30 minutes. It makes a difference. It adds up. A page a day turns into a novel in a year.
9. What are the last three books you’ve read and what is on your TBR stack?
Recently I finished Gregg Hurwitz’s new Orphan X novel, Into The Fire, as well as Andrew Grant’s Too Close To Home. I’m currently reading J. Todd Scott’s new book, This Side Of Night, with William Kent Kruger’s latest, This Tender Land up next. These are such talented writers, and I’m lucky that I get to do some events with them on my tour for The Wild One.
For non-fiction, I’m enjoying Bill Bryson’s The Body, A Guide For Occupants. It’s super-well researched, fascinating and funny and a very fast read.
10. You’re trapped on an island, you have one book, one weapon, and one personal item (Non-electronic) with you. What are they?
Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. This collection of insights has been around for many centuries and for good reason. I can dip into it over and over and always find something new. For a weapon, I choose a machete. Many uses. For a personal item, I’d pick an endless supply of coffee. Can’t live without it.
Our Review for The Wild One
Nick Petrie is back with his fifth Peter Ash novel, The Wild One. Peter Ash, a weary Marine Corps veteran that is drifting through life and keeps running into issues which give him a familiar sense of purpose, the purpose he may have lost after his war was done. Having served as a Platoon Commander for eight years in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Peter can’t seem to adjust to civilian life. He lives off the grid, no income, not even a valid drivers license. While dealing with his PTSD he spends a lot of time outdoors and alone.
The plot and the writing between the current date and the events that led Peter to where he is going which occurred one-year prior is top notch. A husband and wife with their little seven-year-old boy are threatened. A murder occurs, blame is placed. Fast forward to current time and Peter’s old war buddy enlists his help in tracking down a little boy. Peter is very hesitant about getting involved, but once he finds out the details of the job he’s being asked to do, he gets emotionally involved and cannot say no.
This new case takes Peter to Iceland, but as soon as he arrives Peter is threatened with deportation. Someone, unbeknownst to him at the time wants Peter out of Iceland and out of the hunt. As this request is unofficial and the American requesting doesn’t utilize proper channels, Peter is given two days to roam free and is ordered to come back when the next flight that leaves for the US is set to take off. Peter, relieved that he isn’t spending the next few days in lock up, begins his mission with no intention of reporting back until his missions is complete.
The Wild One sees Peter confronting one of the most powerful snowstorms in decades, a group of killers, a family of savage Vikings, and a businessman with practically unlimited resources, funds, and influence. Peter’s drive to learn the truth only grows, it allows him to push through when most people would have quit a long time ago. But that is why most people can’t be Marines. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Peter uses his training, some connections he picks up along the way and a whole bunch of will power to learn the truth and put an end to a conspiracy. All while avoiding hypothermia, avoiding a kill team, a police commander and the Viking Family. Earning itself a Blast Radius of a MOAB! This novel is a must for your TBR stack.
Author: Nick Petrie
Series: Peter Ash # 5
Pages: 381 Hardcover
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: January 13, 2020
Follow Nick on Twitter: @_NickPetrie_
Lima Charlie Rating: A BLAST RADIUS OF: A MOAB! (8/10) – Massive Ordnance Air Blast -AKA- Mother of all Bombs. Largely known as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the US Military inventory. It has a blast radius of one mile, meaning it demolishes everything within 1 square mile.
About the Author
Nick Petrie received his MFA in fiction from the University of Washington and won a Hopwood Award for short fiction while an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. His story “At the Laundromat” won the 2006 Short Story Contest in The Seattle Review, a national literary journal.
His first novel, The Drifter, won the ITW Thriller and Barry Awards, and was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Hammett Awards. He won the 2016 Literary Award from the Wisconsin Library Association and was named one of Apple’s 10 Writers to Read in 2017. Light It Up was named the Best Thriller of 2018 by Apple Books and has been nominated for a Barry Award.
His books in the Peter Ash series are The Drifter, Burning Bright, Light It Up, and Tear It Down. A husband and father, he has worked as a carpenter, remodeling contractor, and building inspector. He lives in Milwaukee, where he is hard at work on the next Peter Ash novel.