Q&A with Featured Author: Peter Robertson

Peter Robertson was born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has degrees from universities in England and the U.S. He lives in the Chicago area.

What circumstances inspired you to write Permafrost?
My son was a poor sleeper as a baby and I would walk him around Long Lake in Northern Michigan. Most of the plot came to me as I walked and once he finally fell asleep I wrote the book in a relatively short time.

Like Tom, the main character in Permafrost, you grew up in Scotland, live in Chicago, and have visited Michigan numerous times. Are there experiences or locations in this novel that are based on your own?
I did try to recreate a lot of places I knew. The Scottish sections might be the most authentic. I played a lot looser with Chicago and Northern Michigan. I tended to invent what I needed. There isn’t too much of me in Tom, but the Scotland I remember is the one he and Keith have to deal with.

Have you written other books?
Permafrost is my third attempt at a novel. The first was a shamelessly autobiographical piece of plotless drivel that was called “unleavened” by one kind publishing house. I created another mystery before Permafrost that had the unfortunate gimmick of an illiterate detective. It actually sounds slightly better than it was.

Do you expect to write a sequel?
I might. I’d like to take Tom someplace different. Give him a new life and then let him get bored all over again.

What other writing have you done?
For ten years, I wrote book reviews that appeared in magazines and newspapers. It kept me busy and broke. I wrote mostly about mysteries, so, hopefully, I know enough not to have stumbled into the biggest mistakes new crime authors make. But we’ll see.

What is the significance of the title?
There’s an emotional paralysis that Tom has to work through. That’s the permafrost the title refers to.

Would you describe this novel as a mystery? In what ways is it or is it not?
Oh, it totally is. The plot was created backwards. I had a crime in my mind long before I had much of anything else. The solution does make sense. It isn’t especially solvable for the reader, but that one-time genre criterion no longer holds especially true. I worked hard at moving the narrative along quickly, and I tried to make the book as much about character as crime. Having said that, great crime novels have taken that genre and reshaped it beyond recognition. Permafrost falls well within any reasonable parameters.