I’ve been a fan of Nick Petrie’s series since his award-winning debut novel, The Drifter, first came out back in 2016 and introduced the world to Peter Ash, a combat veteran who suffers from PTSD.
Having followed Petrie and Ash from the very beginning, it’s fascinating to me that Petrie has managed to grow as a writer with each new book, always finding ways to top himself year after year. That is again the case in 2020 with The Wild One, the first book to see Peter Ash leave the states as he heads to Iceland in search of a missing boy. But, as usual, nothing is ever quite what it seems—and before long, Peter finds himself in over his head, and racing against the clock.
Just before heading out tour to promote the new book, Nick Petrie agreed once again to go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the story idea for this one to whether or not we might see Peter Ash on the big (or small) screen one day.
TRBS: Peter Ash is going international! How did you come up with the story idea for The Wild One?
Petrie: A few years ago, my son and I went to Iceland to go backpacking across the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a stone’s throw from the Arctic Circle. There are no roads into this big park, so we were dropped off by boat on this rocky, isolated shore. We had to cross a number of snowy passes to get to the pickup location five days later. It was such a captivating and lonely place, I really fell in love with it, and with the Icelandic people we met along the way.
At the end of the trip – actually at the airport, waiting to board our plane home – this book just appeared in my head, more or less fully formed, which has never happened to me before. I spent twenty minutes scribbling in my little notebook, trying to get everything down, before the book vanished again. I spent the next eighteen months trying to create that vision again in this novel.
TRBS: What sort of research did you have to do for this one before actually sitting down to write it?
Petrie: After that first Iceland trip, my son and I went back the next summer to drive the Ring Road, the main highway that circumnavigates the island. I was looking for locations for story events, and talking to everybody I could, trying to get a sense of this amazing place. I’m really interested in setting – place is really like a character for me – so I wanted to get the details right. More importantly, I wanted to get the feeling right. That sense of isolation and desperation.
TRBS: What is your writing process like? Do you outline, make it up as you go? Do you have a target word count that you try to hit each day?
Petrie: With every book before this one, I’m winging it every day. I might know the next scene, sometimes the scene after that, but rarely more, not until the end when the whole thing falls together. This book was entirely different – I had this eerie blueprint in my mind – and I think that’s why it gave me so much trouble. I had to reinvent my process.
As to word count, I’m not a fast writer. I start each morning by reworking the last few days’ work, and try to shoot for 1,000 new words every day. Sometimes I get more, sometimes less. I try not to obsess about it, though. As Bernard Malamud said, I just keep writing until it comes out right.
TRBS: Has there been any talk of a movie or TV series based on your books? If so, which format do you prefer, and who would be your dream casting choice to play Peter on the big or small screen?
Petrie: There’s been a lot of talk but I’m not holding my breath. I think series television is a great way to bring complex novels to life – Michael Connelly’s Bosch, anyone? – but lately I find myself craving real feature films, with a beginning, middle, and end, where every character is at risk and you have no idea how it will turn out.
As to actors, lately I’m a big fan of Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, and Jon Bernthal. Early on, Michael B. Jordan expressed interest in The Drifter, wanting to know if he could play Peter and flip the races on the other characters. I thought that was a fun idea, especially because Jordan and his filmmaking partners are so damn talented. Mostly, I think the character needs an actor who can show that essential combination of toughness and vulnerability.
TRBS: Lastly, now that The Wild One is finally set to hit bookstores, what’s next for Peter Ash?
Petrie: Because of the challenge of writing The Wild One, I’m, uh, a little behind schedule. So I’m not as far along on the next book as I’d like to be. But I can tell you that Peter is a wanted man and things do not look good.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.