Author, Journalist, Speaker, Church Minister, YouTube Presenter, Film Critic, Weirdo: Peter Laws chats to Kendall Reviews

It’s a genuine pleasure to welcome Reverend Peter Laws to Kendall Reviews. In a fascinating chat, Peter plays against my stereotypical images of a church minister and talks about hunting for werewolves, watching retro horror, crime scene photo’s and his latest book The Frighteners.

The kettle’s boiled…

KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

Hi. My name’s Peter Laws. I’m an author, journalist, YouTube horror host and a church minister with a taste for the macabre. I’m the creator of the creepy crime-fiction series featuring Professor Matt Hunter – an atheist ex-vicar who helps the police solve religiously motivated crime. Two of those novels (PURGED and UNLEASHED) are already out in shops. They’re published by Allison and Busby. I recently signed a deal to write part three, which I’m finishing off at the moment.

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As well as fiction, my first non-fiction book comes out in hardback from Icon Books on March 22nd, 2018. That’s called THE FRIGHTENERS where I travel around Transylvania, Rome and the UK, trying to figure out why humans have a morbid streak. It’s been a blast to write. I’ve met real life vampires who drink their boyfriends blood, I’ve been hunting for werewolves in Hull, been chased by zombies through a nuclear bunker in Essex and been tortured by the BBC in a spooky country mansion. Yeah, writing that book was pretty wild.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I love watching films and TV, and reading. I particularly love retro stuff. I write a column for Fortean Times print magazine each month, and I specialise in retro horror movies and cult TV shows. For example, I just reviewed a bunch of Hammer Horror movies for them, and yesterday I was sent the complete box set of Buck Rogers and the 25th Century on Blu Ray! Loads of fun.

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I’m also into music, and composing. I wrote a full original soundtrack to my first novels, which were released digitally but also on…wait for it…audio cassette. Uber-retro!

KR: Having listened to both soundtracks I have to say Kendall Reviews can’t recommend them enough. Superb!

You can listen to PURGED – The Original Soundtrack for FREE here

You can listen to UNLEASHED – The Original Soundtrack for FREE here

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I guess it’s not really a ‘childhood’ book, but I did read it in my early teens and it really scared the crap out of me – which I loved. I devoured all the classic books of Stephen King at that age and used to sit on my windowsill at night, and read them by the glow of the street light outside. I guess I just loved the atmosphere.

KR: What are you reading now?

I have two books on the go at the moment. I’m working my way through The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, and also a spirituality book called 3 Theories of Everything by Ellis Potter. The latter book explores how all major worldviews can slot into three ways of viewing reality – Monism, Dualism and Trinitarianism. I find them all fascinating, but I’m particularly drawn to the latter. I think seeing God as a Trinity is an amazing concept, that really captures why we should value relationships and diversity in our cultures. My third novel explores these subjects, but through the lens of an intense thriller.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Music plays a HUGE role in my writing – and my reading too. I’m kind of obsessed with film soundtracks, and have an obscenely large collection of obscure music from films – mostly older ones. Every time I write (or even read) a new book, I tend to put together specific playlists that I feel represent the vibe of the book. Then I’ll listen to it while I work and read. I almost always have soundtrack music playing throughout the day, even when I sleep. It’s pretty odd, I guess, but I’ve loved that stuff since I was a kid. I find it adds a new element to everyday tasks. Like dropping the kids off at school, while the score from Jaws plays, for example. Ha ha.

As far as my favourite album goes, it’s too hard to choose, but I absolutely love the soundtrack to a 1980 haunted house movie called The Changeling. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for a CD in my life – I paid £60 to get it from a Spanish collector. But then it got re-released and I sold it for even more, and got the new deluxe edition. Result!

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Stephen King is a predictable answer, but is still a very authentic one in my case. I loved his stuff, and he made me want to be a writer early in my life. However, I put writing aside for decades and concentrated on music and bands instead. Coming back to it in my thirties had a nice sense of inevitability to it. I also love the horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. I read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury last year and found that really inspiring. As was I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

This is a classic writing question, but in some ways it’s a misleading one. People often assume that a writer must either be a ‘plotter/ planner’ or ‘a see-how-it-goes’ type. I think there’s a middle ground. I tend to plot things out first. However, that plotting experience can move and change as I’m doing it, and can wind up reaching conclusions I didn’t expect. So, the pre-plotting approach still lets the book take the lead, and is simply a quicker way of finding out where a story could go, without using up lots of time writing something that leads nowhere. But yes, I’m a pre-plotter in the sense that I don’t start writing a story in full without having any idea where it’s going. I spend time working on a rough structure, and then it can change, or not change, depending on the characters. The novel I’m working on now has changed a fair bit along the way, even though I ‘pre-planned’ it.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do research fiction, especially because my crime series tends to follow religiously motivated killers. Because of that, I keep an eye on religious crime, and read up on theology etc. However, I do waaaayyyyy more research for my non-fiction. For that, I read a lot of books, but I also did loads of hands on, face-to-face interviews and experiences, many of which took place on a research road-trip which lasted about a week. The Frighteners is part pop psychology book, part memoir and travelogue, so it involved me embedding myself into actual, scary and bizarre situations. I find the ‘on the road’ research stuff lots of fun, but it also means the reader feels that the theory is being anchored in interesting, sometimes funny or disturbing, real-life events.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I drop the kids off at school, then I get home and I might spend some time in quiet. Since I’m a Christian, I’ll often spend a bit in prayer or reflection before starting the day properly. Even if you’re not religious, I think it can be useful to give yourself time to ponder things. Then I’ll head off to a coffee shop or pub, fire up some soundtrack into my ear phones and dive in to the writing.

I do a lot of my fiction writing in public places, and will sometimes stay over in conference hotels or monasteries. I just find I get loads done in those sorts of places, writing usually from 10 in the morning till about 8pm at night. For my non-fiction book, I did most of the writing at home. That’s because not only did I need a decent wi-fi connection (for the frequent research), I was also having to view material which was way too grim for a public place. For example, I had to view a lot of crime scene photographs for a chapter in The Frighteners, which profiles people who collect locks of serial killers hair. Some of that research was horrible and depressing, and I didn’t really enjoy doing it. But I had to. Yet I had no desire to be looking at real dead bodies on my Macbook, while sitting in Starbucks! I didn’t want a Barista putting me on some sort of register!

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

I’d say my second novel, Unleashed, is very close to my heart. It’s where Matt Hunter is drawn into what appears to be a poltergeist case in London. Readers have told me they were genuinely scared by that book, which really pleases me. It was also voted as thriller of the year by the Fully Booked blog – which was great. But the story is a bit strange and just feels personal to me, somehow, especially because some of the frightening situations in the book are based on things that happened to me. So yeah, Unleashed, I’d say.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Yes, because I’m way too needy and insecure to avoid them. It’s amazing how much you personally invest in the response of people. It reminds me of my kids who are desperate for me to see them when they dive into the swimming pool, or when they draw something new. They really crave approval and acceptance. It doesn’t really change when you get older. However, I know that reviews aren’t a healthy way of maintaining a sense of self-worth – so I often take them with a pinch of salt. But I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t care about them and therefore I do tend to read them. I don’t mind if I get bad reviews now and again, that seems to balance things out a bit. But I can’t imagine what it’s like to have everyone slate your work. That hasn’t happened to me (yet) but it can’t be very pleasant!

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

I feel like I have loads of advice for fledgling authors – not because I’m a great author by any stretch, but because it took me five years to get a book deal with a traditional publisher. I managed to get a good literary agent early on which really boosted my confidence in writing, but even then I wrote four novels in those five years which were all ultimately rejected. Each time that happened I decided to put the book on the shelf and start again because I wanted a traditional book deal rather than self-publish (though there’s nothing wrong with that!) I just really felt drawn to the classic traditional model. After five years of trying I was about to give up, and as a back-up I came up with my non-fiction proposal about morbid interest. Amazingly, soon after I was offered a two-book fiction deal, then a month or so later the non-fiction deal came through as well!

So, I’d say keep going, and expect rejection – it will make you a better writer. And don’t just assume you must self-publish, once you feel like your book is rejected. Three of those four novels that I wrote in those rejection years ended up being later adapted into Matt Hunter novels. So, none of it is wasted. Oh, and I also meet people who say they want to be writers, but they are always making excuses why they can’t write. I write full-time now, so it’s certainly easier for me, but in the beginning I wrote my first novel in the evenings and weekends when I was working full-time with a young baby. What I’m saying is, it’s possible to spend so long reading about writing or doing courses about writing, that you never really write and finish anything. But writing and finishing should be the goal, if you want to get anything out there. And to do that involves one simple equation, which was told to me by the TV writer Brian Clemens. He said the secret to writing is this: ‘Arse to chair, pen to paper.’

KR: What scares you?

I find death, violence and suffering scary – it’s one of the reasons why I watch and write, fictionalised versions of it. It’s my way of dealing with the things that frighten me. Some people think I like horror movies and write scary, death-fused novels because I enjoy real life suffering. The truth is the absolute opposite.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

I’ve been fortunate to see my books released in all three formats, as well as audiobook. I loved seeing my own book in hardback, but for sheer ease, portability and reading-in-the-bath simplicity, I’m paperback all the way. I especially love old, pulp horror and thriller paperbacks from the 70s and 80s. I’ve been reading a lot of them lately, and I love how bendy and indestructible they are. (PS, I do listen to a lot of audiobooks, too).

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

Sure. Here’s the blurb from the back cover:

 

The Frighteners follows the quest of Peter Laws, a Baptist minister with a penchant for the macabre, to understand why so many people love things that are spooky, morbid and downright repellent. He meets vampires, hunts werewolves in Hull, talks to a man who has slept on a mortuary slab to help him deal with a diagnosis, and is chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac through a farmhouse full of hanging bodies. 

Staring into the darkness of a Transylvanian night, he asks: What is it that makes millions of people seek to be disgusted and freaked out? And, in a world that worships rationality and points an accusing finger at violent video games and gruesome films, can an interest in horror culture actually give us safeways to confront our mortality? Might it even have power to re-enchant our jaded world? 

Grab your crucifixes, pack the silver bullets, and join the Sinister Minister on his romp into our morbid curiosities.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m pretty busy at the moment. I’m writing the third novel in the Matt Hunter series, which is due in at the publishers in June. I’m also doing a bunch of media stuff for The Frighteners, which includes writing various newspaper articles or going on radio etc.

I’m also doing a little promo stuff for overseas releases of my books. For example, my first two novels Purged and Unleashed were bought by a big publisher in Germany called Bastei Lubbe. They’re bringing Purged out this winter, so today I just filmed a promo vid for them, for a booksellers conference in Germany. I’ll also be doing some edits on The Frighteners for the US release this September. My agent and I retained US rights for that, so it’s being published by a different publisher over there (Skyhorse) and the book will need some of the English centric references Americanised a bit! I’m also still writing my monthly column, and doing videos for my Youtube channel, as well as still speaking at church services on various weekends.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

I do really like my main character, Matt Hunter, but if I was stuck on a desert island for the rest of my life, I’d say his architect wife, Wren. Ha ha. She’s makes me laugh and I reckon she’d build a mean shelter.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

Frankenstein’s Monster. Not the lumbering, mute from the films, but the one from Mary Shelley’s book. In that version, he’s amazingly articulate and kind, but also incredibly agile and strong – and best of all, he doesn’t have to eat much except berries and stuff. So, I’d get more of the food in the island scenario. But also, he’s so eager for companionship and is always rejected by the world, and I’ve always felt heartbroken by how rejected he was. I reckon he’d make a good friend, no matter what he looked like. Plus he’s tall, so he could grab fruit from high branches. Man…you’ve got me thinking too much about this.

c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

If it’s about survival, then Bear Grylls I guess. But if it’s a chance to hang out with someone for a while, I’d pick Elvis Presley.

KR: Thank you very much Peter.

You can follow Peter on Twitter @revpeterlaws

To find out more about Peter please visit his official website www.peterlaws.co.uk

Please visit Peter’s author page here

Watch Peter on his Youtube channel here

The Frighteners follows the quest of Peter Laws, a Baptist minister with a penchant for the macabre, to understand why so many people love things that are spooky, morbid and downright repellent. He meets vampires, hunts werewolves in Hull, talks to a man who has slept on a mortuary slab to help him deal with a diagnosis, and is chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac through a farmhouse full of hanging bodies. 

Staring into the darkness of a Transylvanian night, he asks: What is it that makes millions of people seek to be disgusted and freaked out? And, in a world that worships rationality and points an accusing finger at violent video games and gruesome films, can an interest in horror culture actually give us safeways to confront our mortality? Might it even have power to re-enchant our jaded world? 

Grab your crucifixes, pack the silver bullets, and join the Sinister Minister on his romp into our morbid curiosities.

You can buy The Frighteners from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Fifteen years ago, 29 Barley Street in Menham, South London, became notorious as the scene of alleged poltergeist activity which led to the death of young Holly Wasson. The shadow cast by this episode is still felt in the town, and among the gang of friends who were caught up in the tragic events. That shadow looms larger than ever when one of the group dies in horrific and strange circumstances. Matt Hunter, former minister and now professor of sociology, is called in to advise the police on the possible ritualistic elements of the death. And he is forced to ask himself, are forces beyond the grave at work or is a flesh-and-blood killer at large?

You can buy Unleashed from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Matt Hunter lost his faith a long time ago. Formerly a minister, now a professor of sociology, he’s writing a book that debunks the Christian faith while assisting the police with religiously motivated crimes. On holiday with his family in Oxfordshire, Matt finds himself on edge in a seemingly idyllic village where wooden crosses hang at every turn. The stay becomes more sinister still when a local girl goes missing, followed by further disappearances. Caught up in an investigation that brings memories to the surface that he would prefer stay buried deep, Matt is on the trail of a killer determined to save us all.

You can buy Purged from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Photo Credit:  Julie Laws

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