Friday, November 20, 2015



Only a reality TV producer and an expert safari guide can stop a terrorist attack.

Every adventure starts at the fringes of civilization. For expert safari guide Mbuno and wildlife television producer Pero Baltazar, filming in the wild of East Africa should have been a return to the adventure they always loved. This time they’d be filming soaring vultures in northern Kenya and giant sea crocodiles in Tanzania with Mary, the daughter of the world’s top television evangelist, the very reverend Jimmy Threte.

But when a terrorist cell places them in the crosshairs, there is suddenly no escape and they must put their filming aside and combine all their talents to thwart an all-out al-Shabaab terrorist attack on Jimmy Threte’s Christian gathering of hundreds of thousands in Nairobi, Kenya.


Peter, how did you get started writing and when did you become an “author?”

Everyone who has ever written a letter is an author. The degree or measure of that title “author” is the only thing in play. As a literary agent, the term “author” means something commercial to me. As a creative person the term means something quite different. It is all in the generosity of what the author creates – that’s the measure of art or craft – generosity. The trick is to always be open, always be generous, always share with the reader, whoever he or she may be.

What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
Reliving experiences, remembering corner-of-the-mind details that are only uncovered during the process and, always, the sheer escapism of wallowing in the writing. Creativity, no matter how good or mediocre, is always rewarding – a sensation built into the human psyche. The trick is then to go back and polish, re-write, and re-write again.

And again and again. How long is your to-be-read list?
I read a couple of thousand words every few days, maybe 10,000 a week. That’s part of my job as a literary agent. Now, on my private reading list? Heck, how long do you have – that list is seemingly endless. I have favorite authors, past and present . . . and I always read their material first when I have time; Mary Glickman, Martin Cruz Smith,  James Church currently, Derek Lin (for mental well-being), Alexander McCall Smith, Joseph Kanon . . . and more.

Can you share some of your marketing strategies with us?
Most of that is down to the publisher – besides which I take time to answer all questions and, especially, I have been enjoying iReads with Laura Fabiani who has perfected a way to spread the word. Look, ALL publishing, major publisher or small, is about word-of-mouth, starting the conversation, connecting with readers.

You have a day job . . . how do you find time to write?
I binge at it. Sometimes I lose a 48-hour weekend. Sometimes I use part of what people would call vacation time. It is such a hedonistic pleasure (at first) why not wallow in it? Then the re-writing? That’s many many dark evenings.

If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
Interesting question. Probably any PBS station because that would cover most of what is important to me, from news to nature to good drama and comedy.

How often do you tweet?
When something occurs to me to respond to. I have to say that tweeting seems to me like spitting into the wind – sometimes it goes a long way, other times it hits you in the face.

How do you feel about Facebook?
I use this every day . . . news, contact with friends and acquaintances, updates on life.

What scares you the most? (Other than tweets hitting you in the face.)
That once again the male population has exceeded the female population . . . the last two times this happened (that we know of) was in 1910 and 1937 . . .

What five things would you never want to live without?
Okay, I will list things, not those people and animals I will not live without.
BBC Radio 4
The Internet
Encyclopedia Britannica (the one I cherish is long form – 1956 vintage).

Who would you want to narrate a film about your life?
Someone with a lot of patience . . . Bill Nighy?

3D movies are . . .

A marketing gimmick to try and strengthen against piracy.

If you had a swear jar, would it be full?
Sure, why not. Words are words, not social degradation. That being said, as words they should only be used as appropriate, not as punctuation.

What's your relationship with your TV remote?
I wear out batteries.

Do you spend more on clothes or food?
Food. I live in the desert southwest where clothes last longer than they did in Manhattan.

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
If I had been given any guidance early on, I would have majored in engineering and then astronautics, and helped with the space program. But when I was young, I do not think I had the same work ethic as I have now. Perhaps the reason life seemed to bumble forward.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
Pretty much anything Teddy Roosevelt, Conrad, and of course Shakespeare came up with.
Teddy: The government is us; we are the government, you and I.
Teddy: The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.
Conrad: Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.
Shakespeare: We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

What would your main character say about you?
Familiar but not quite up to the task.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
Telling an author that we’ve exhausted all the publishers and editors we can think of – sometimes more than 30 or 40 people – and cannot afford to continue trying to place their manuscript. Lately, this has been less horrible because there are direct-to-market possibilities – and we always try and help them set that up. This happens a few times a year.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
Both the British Museum and the National Library. You could lose the rest of your life enjoying either.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
Providing I would have complete access – be in their shoes? Denis Neul in Brin’s The Practice Effect – what an upside-down world that would be.

What’s the worst thing someone has said about your writing? How did you deal with it?
“I don’t get it . . .” or “I don’t understand.” Then I feel really stupid and un-generous. Time to re-write.

Who would you invite to a dinner party if you could invite anyone in the world?
Currently living – and dinner is supposed to be fun, no? Assuming everyone could speak English . . . Well, probably an astronaut like Brewster Shaw (for perspective on the planet), Mbuno’s grandson who still guides I believe in Kenya, Sylvia Earle, Bill Nye, and Jane Goodall.

What's your relationship with your cell phone?
I only use it when traveling. Or for emergencies. That will change, I am sure. Technology doesn’t frighten, but it is invasive . . . and I already spend 6 hours a day at a computer or on the phone.

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?
I used to get by on 4 and cat naps (taxi rides, elevator trips) . . . now I try and get a solid 6.

What is your favorite movie?

I do not have one, I am afraid. There are too many I see again and again – comedies, romantic comedies, westerns, thrillers, Sci-fi. If I had to pick one to always amuse me it would be for the writing, the skill and the entertainment . . . something like Top Hat.

Do you have a favorite book?
The Encyclopedia Britannica.
Did the movie stink?

Ender’s Game.

Do you sweat the small stuff?

I micro manage everything. Always been a hindrance and a saving . . . of projects large and small.

Lightning round!
Cake or frosting? Cake
Laptop or desktop? Desktop
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? Grew up with the former, so Chevy.
Emailing or texting? Email.
Indoors or outdoors? Outdoors whenever possible.
Tea: sweet or unsweet? British, sweet with milk.
Plane, train, or automobile? All three . . . train is nostalgic.


Peter Riva spent many months over thirty years in Africa, many of them with the legendary guides for East African white hunters and adventurers. He created a TV series (seventy-eight 1-hour episodes) in 1995 called WildThings for Paramount TV. Passing on the fables, true tales, and insider knowledge of these last reserves of true wildlife is a passion.

Connect with Peter:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |   Goodreads

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