Interview With The Author:  Thomas Perry


John Dwaine McKenna

We’re talking with Edgar award-winning writer—and Mysterious Book Report favorite—Thomas Perry, whose crime fiction has been entertaining us for some four decades.  His work is always outstanding, erudite and compelling, as well as exciting and well-plotted.  So with thanks for taking time to speak to our audience today, here’s our first question:

When do you write?

When I started writing I had to steal brief snippets of time, like the hour before I left for work in the morning  or my lunch hour at the office.  Since around the beginning of 1990 I’ve stayed home and used time as though I had an unlimited supply.

Where do you write?

We have a room that’s connected to the kitchen with windows looking out on our patio, back garden, and pool where my wife Jo and I have desks a few feet apart. We spend most of the day there. It’s where we both are right now.

Are any of your characters autobiographical?

I think all of mine are partly autobiographical, including villains, women, and children, but the animals tend to be only in the sense that my animals do things I’ve seen animals do. I think writing fiction is a lot like what children do when they play–imagine they’re a particular fictional person and act out an experience that person might have.

Why do you write?

Because I can’t help it. After forty years at it, this is the main way I record and evaluate my thoughts about life.

Who inspired you to write?

My parents were both teachers, and I had an older brother and older sister.  We all told each other stories and had lively discussions.  Being the youngest increased the pressure to tell a good story.

How many books do you read a year?

I don’t know.  But I think of reading and writing as two halves of a single activity that occupies me for most of every day, and our house is always crowded with books, so the number each of us reads must be large.

What makes a character endearing?

A character is endearing if he or she demonstrates qualities we admire and if we feel the urge to spend more time with him or her. If you find an endearing character in one of my books you know that I’ve been charmed by her or him before you were.

Do you read reviews?

I read some, mostly in the same spirit as I read weather reports–to see if this will be rough sailing or a pleasant voyage.  I think a writer’s most important job is learning to be a better writer. Positive reviews feel great, but they teach you nothing.  Negative reviews only help if they teach you what you should do differently next time.

It’s been an honor, an inspiration and a privilege Mr. Perry.  We’re looking forward to your next project and thanks again for speaking with us today.


Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of twenty-eight novels including the Jane Whitefield series and The Butcher’s Boy, which won the Edgar Award.  He lives in Southern California.