Who are you? Where are you from? What are you working on these days?

I’m a retired (and recovered) marketing executive who started writing crime about eight years ago. I was born in England and took a five-year hiatus in Paris, France on my way to America. I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for about forty years, although for six of those years I split my time working in New York during the week and spending weekends in Pittsburgh. I’m currently writing a police procedural series based in Pittsburgh (the Vic Lenoski series) and have just started a thriller series with Levon Grace as the protagonist. I also write short stories, with almost twenty in print.

What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

Mostly to improve, and to write a historical novel.

Who are some of your influences? How have they influenced your work?

I read widely. My earliest influences, not surprisingly, were Conrad, Steinbeck, Bradbury and Hemingway, followed by Samsun and several Japanese writers (Mishima and Kawabata). I also read Tolstoy, Melville and Trollope, and was a big fan of Ken Kesey, before turning to crime writers. That led me to Chandler, Stark, Nesbo, Parker and Lehane, among others. I also read a lot of poetry, which all writers should do. Poets are our test pilots. They test structure and stretch words, feelings and ideas to find new meaning and ways to connect. They give us a lot to learn.

What are some writing tips you’ve received over the years you feel have helped you improve your writing?

Help your reader…be clear and say what you mean. Don’t imply.

Trust your reader…your readers and intelligent and committed to reading your work. They are with you for a journey, so give them one.

Write clean. Don’t use weasel words like ‘almost’ and ‘about,’ avoid words like ‘when’ and ‘then’ that distance the reader from the narrative, and commit to your verbs and nouns.

I also liked a piece of advice from Hemingway in The Moveable Feast. He said write every day until you know what you are going to write next, and then stop. The next day it will be easier to start when you know where to begin.

What are you currently reading? How’s it going—recommend, or no?

I just started Viet Thanh Nguyen’s latest book, The Committed. So far it is quite good.

If you had the chance to see one musician/group live in concert, living or dead, who would it be and at what point in their career would it be?

Jerry Garcia and The Dead. I saw them years ago, but would love to see them together one more time.

What should we look for from you in the near future?

Given that things tend to cluster, starting in August and into the fall I will have three short stories coming out, one in Crimeucopia, a British publication, another in the Malice Domestic Anthology (Mystery Most Diabolical), and a shorter piece in Yellow Mama. I also have a contract for three more Vic Lenoski books, so those will appear a year apart starting next year from Level Best Books. And soon I hope to publish my first Levon Grace Book.


Peter W. J. Hayes was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and lived in Paris and Taipei before settling in Sewickley, a village just north of Pittsburgh. He worked as a journalist, advertising copywriter and marketing executive—including six years as Chief Marketing officer for a multinational corporation—before turning to mystery and crime writing. He is the author of the Silver Falchion-nominated Vic Lenoski police procedural series, and is a Derringer-nominated author of short stories. He is also a past nominee for the Crime Writers Association (CWA) Debut Dagger Award. He can be found at www.peterwjhayes.com.