It’s always fun to meet someone new and it’s even better when that person is an author with a new book coming our way! Nicholas Petrie got his start as a carpenter and now he is the mind behind the military thriller The Drifter, an RT Top Pick! available tomorrow. The Drifter tells the story of Peter Ash, a veteran who chooses to spend a year living in the open and sleeping under the stars. When a friend’s suicide brings him back to civilization, Peter decides to help his friend’s widow, but a disturbing discovery under her front porch may pull him back into the life he thought he left behind. We’re certainly intrigued by The Drifter, so we were very excited when Nicholas agreed to answer our questions!
Name: Nicholas Petrie
Book: The Drifter
Current Home: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Do I have to choose one? Elmore Leonard, for his characters and wit and the clarity of his prose. He wrote commercially successful and critically acclaimed crime novels that make you want to stay up until dawn to get to the last page. Cormac McCarthy for the Border Trilogy, beautiful cowboy novels that rank with the best in all of literature. Patrick O’Brien, who wrote a 20-book epic about British naval warfare in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s — nothing I ever thought I’d enjoy and I’ve read them all 4 times. Sad and funny and great storytelling.
Defenestrate — to throw something out a window. There really is a word for everything.
Was this the first full-length novel you ever wrote?
Not at all. I wrote my first book in my 20’s, a short novel about a northern Wisconsin roofer with family problems. No surprise it never got published. The Drifter is my fourth finished novel and the first to get published. Perseverance is my middle name.
Tell us about your day job:
I was a carpenter and a remodeling contractor, which I really enjoyed. It was the antithesis of writing — the making of something tangible, which grew hour by hour, day by day. You could turn around at the end of the week and see with your own eyes what you’d accomplished. After that I became a home inspector, which was an entirely different education, this time in people, and also very enjoyable. Although I still miss making stuff.
As a home inspector, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever discovered while inspecting a house?
My favorite story is when I was inspecting a giant house in the most expensive neighborhood in the whole metro area. The neighbor came over to meet the new buyer. As it turned out, the house was for sale because the owner’s son had broken into the neighbor’s house — the police had followed the kid’s tracks through the snow from his own house to the broken window in the neighbor’s house, then back to his own house. The kid was also growing dope in his parents’ attic — I could see the electrical wires still hanging, and a sprinkling of dirt around where the planters had been. But it’s also a sad story for the kid’s parents — wealth doesn’t insulate you from personal problems, or make you a better parent.
What’s the one question everyone should ask their home inspector?
The best interview questions are: How long have you been doing this? (Longer is better.) What is your background? (You want someone with a deep background in the building trades, not a guy who went to business school and took a week-long course about home inspection.) Last, and most important: Are you willing to be frank and honest with me about the condition of the house, even if it means I don’t buy it? Because that’s the job, right there — consumer protection.
How did you start writing?
I fell in love with reading first, but I became a writer in high school, on the school newspaper. By my senior year, I was writing a sarcastic 8-part soap opera that took place in the school hallways. When people stopped me at lunch to tell me they liked what I’d written, I was hooked.
What was it like when you got “The Call”?
I was in a cheap hotel room in Marquette, Michigan, having cut short our camping trip to find decent cell-phone reception for my agent’s call. (The mosquitoes were the size of hummingbirds that year, so I wasn’t exactly heartbroken.) It’s possible I might have done a happy little dance, right there in the room.
What’s your favorite paragraph in The Drifter?
That’s like asking me which is my favorite body part — I need them all to get the job done. But I do have a few favorite lines. When Peter Ash has tackled the giant, angry dog, and has it pinned to the dirt with his body, the dog begins to growl. “Peter could feel the vibrations in his own chest….It was like lying on a vibrating bed in a cheap motel, but with teeth.”
Anything you’d like to add?
Just a big thank-you to all those great readers out there — I really hope you enjoy the book!