Welcome to an Interview with…
Peter was born in Northern Ireland at the same time Johnny Mathis held the UK number one chart with When a Child is Born (a coincidence, we assure you). He was first published at the age of 17 in the Simon & Schuster anthology Children of the Troubles, edited by Laurel Holliday, and followed in quick succession by numerous other publications. The Camel Trail is his first novel.
A brief synopsis.
Sarah Catchpole was raped and beaten by her husband one too many times. When Frankie is sent to prison, Sarah and her young son, Kevin, flee London and start over in the sleepy town of Padstow, Cornwall. They meet their new neighbours and their son, Martin, who is slowly dying from muscular dystrophy. He’s almost wheelchair-bound but ever hopeful of being able to walk unaided the full length of The Camel Trail, an eleven-mile stretch of scenic path near the coast.
But when Frankie is released from prison and tracks them down, the unrelenting chase that ensues is a race against time before Martin’s condition deteriorates. With Kevin and Martin missing, Sarah and Martin’s parents are plunged headlong into a fight for their boys’ survival and, ultimately, for their own redemption.
What made you decide to write this book?
It was round about the time of the anniversary of my uncle’s death some years ago (he died of muscular dystrophy before I was born) that I decided to write a short story in his honour. Muscular dystrophy runs in the family and I’ve also lost two cousins to the condition. But the short story didn’t feel right. The events in the story, that snapshot of life, simply felt all wrong. After a discussion with my dad about the negative effects of the condition (total wheelchair confinement usually by age 10-12), I began to think about how that would affect someone – knowing they won’t be able to walk for much longer. The character of Martin grew from that idea; before he was chair-bound, he wanted to walk The Camel Trail. But while that’s a feat in itself, I didn’t want to make it easy for him. The other characters grew around the idea of Martin’s desire to walk – those who’d help him achieve his goal and those who’d get in his way. The novel’s main plot is the kidnap of two young boys and how they tough it out. Especially considering one of them is having trouble walking.
Where did the title come from?
The title, The Camel Trail, is based on a real walking-and-cycling trail in Cornwall. When I first came across it, it seemed perfect for Martin’s needs. It is flat and smooth for the most part and suitable for Martin to walk. But it’s also long enough to pose as a challenge.
Do you always write in this genre?
The Camel Trail is a character-driven and somewhat subtle thriller. My second novel, still a work in progress, has a similar feel to it, but with a harder edge. Where The Camel Trail has made readers weep (so I’m told), my new one won’t be so emotionally taxing. But I find it hard to define strict boundaries for the genres I write in. Some years ago I started work on a fantasy novel, but felt it was losing its way. I’ve also dabbled in horror from time to time. But the main focus of my stories are the characters and what they are forced to do in certain situations. Confining that to a specific genre is a tricky thing to do.
What was your inspiration to write and when did you start?
My earliest memories of reading were the Dr Seuss books (they were far more popular in Ireland than they had been here in England). But I hope my own writing doesn’t read in a similar vein! All I knew is that I loved reading. I’d always had a creative mind (I drew a comic sketch called Spot the Dog, a year before the cartoon of the same name hit the children’s programming line up on TV in the 80s!). I was a quiet child and could entertain myself with my own imagination quite easily. I guess something just clicked and I put reading and my imagination together and started writing. I think I was six or seven years old when I wrote an ‘epic’ poem called The Moon & The Stars. And I’ve been writing ever since.
What was your destination to publishing? ie are you self published.
Like the majority of my fellow writers out there, I tried the conventional route to publishing for years. I was bolstered in my confidence when I received a standard rejection letter from an agency for my novel – a form letter that hadn’t even had my name printed on it – but underneath the usual ‘we read this with interest but unfortunately…’ text, the agent had actually handwritten a personal note: ‘Peter, some interesting work.’ It was still a rejection, but it gave me a glimmer of hope. I could never figure out why she thought it was interesting but didn’t want to represent it, but it still made me happy.
Eventually, after years of targeting agents and publishers, and rewrite after rewrite, I took the bull by the horns, as they say, and I self-published my novel as an ebook. Meanwhile, I came across the Lulu publishing brand and soon there after, released a paperback version of the novel.
Do you have a website to share?
With my life as full as it is at the moment, I don’t blog my musings to the world (although you’ll find me on Twitter @pjmerrigan140). I do, however, have a website dedicated to The Camel Trail (and my future work): http://www.peterjmerrigan.co.uk
Any links to the book/books
My website (above) lists the various options for purchasing the book, but here are the main ones:
The ebook can be bought from Amazon in the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0053ZH1JA
And in the US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0053ZH1JA
And the paperback is exclusively available (for now) from Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/pjmerrigan
As soon as the paperback makes its way to Amazon (it’s filtering through the system as we speak) I will be sure to Tweet about it.
Please feel free to share an exerpt.
Her breath spiralled into nothing in front of her face. ‘Hot,’ she said, then chewed.
They were taking the long way home after picking up a bag of chips and a battered sausage to share on the way. She held the newspaper cone out and Kevin took a few chips, eating quietly. She hated his silences, dreaded to think what was going through his head. ‘You okay?’ she asked.
He nodded, ate some chips, and stole a bite of the sausage.
‘I was thinking,’ Sarah said. ‘How about blue?’
‘For my room?’
‘Red,’ Kevin said. ‘And white. Maybe.’
She rolled her eyes. ‘Football. You want these?’ There were only a few small chips left at the bottom of the paper. ‘Or do you want the rest of the sausage?’
They lapsed back into silence. When Sarah was finished with the chips, she scrunched the paper up and put it in her coat pocket, wiping her greasy fingers together. They were nearly home. ‘At least I don’t have to wash any plates,’ she said. Kevin nodded. ‘You know,’ she continued, ‘if you want red and white—’
‘He won’t find us, will he?’
Sarah stopped walking. His question had startled her. She told herself she had been expecting it, told herself she knew he would ask it—today, tomorrow, the day after. But it was still a shock.
‘Honey,’ she tried, touching his shoulder.
‘He won’t,’ Kevin stated.
‘Kevin, look at me.’ Sarah crouched to his level, held his arms, the last few inches of a battered sausage dangling from his hand. ‘Not ever, okay? Never. Because he can’t. Because you know where he is.’ She paused. He stared at her. ‘He’ll be away for a long time. Years. Okay?’
She hugged him tight. ‘Okay,’ she said. But she didn’t promise.
Many thanks Peter and the best of luck with your book.