Today we're excited to chat with Peter Stone, author of The Perfect Candidate. Read on for more about Peter and his book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Peter Stone!
Peter Stone is a lifelong fan of thrillers on the big screen, small screen, and page. Prior to his career in TV and film marketing, he worked in Washington, DC, first as an intern on Capitol Hill and later as a Spanish tutor for a former Speaker of the House. The Perfect Candidate is his debut novel. He lives in Tokyo, Japan, with his wife and two sons.
From debut author Peter Stone comes a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding political thriller that’s perfect for fans of Ally Carter and House of Cards.
When recent high school graduate Cameron Carter lands an internship with Congressman Billy Beck in Washington, DC, he thinks it is his ticket out of small town captivity. What he lacks in connections and Beltway polish he makes up in smarts, and he soon finds a friend and mentor in fellow staffer Ariel Lancaster.
That is, until she winds up dead.
As rumors and accusations about her death fly around Capitol Hill, Cameron’s low profile makes him the perfect candidate for an FBI investigation that he wants no part of. Before he knows it—and with his family’s future at stake—he discovers DC’s darkest secrets as he races to expose a deadly conspiracy.
If it doesn’t get him killed first.
A Chat with Peter Stone:
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I was an intern in Congressman Gary Condit's Capitol Hill office the summer after I graduated from high school, and soon after, he was embroiled in the media circus surrounding Chandra Levy's murder. The whole experience was really formative for me — living in a big city for the first time, being surrounded by political power, and then seeing the piranha feeding frenzy of the press, as well as how America couldn't get enough of the scandal. The more I reflected on that vivid experience, I knew there was a YA book in there. There are so many stories about Washington, DC, from the point of view of adults—House of Cards, Scandal, Tom Clancy novels—I wanted to explore the perspective of the most junior staffers in DC. Because sometimes, the people with the smallest titles end up having the most power.
2. What made you think you could be a writer?
Before The Perfect Candidate, the longest thing I'd written (since college term papers) were emails for work. That all changed on my wedding day, when one of the guests (on my in-law side) came up to me at the reception and encouraged, "You have a book in you." She was apparently impressed with the wedding vows I'd spoken, but I was pretty sure it was a drink from the bar talking. I later realized that the guest was bestselling
author Margaret Stohl, which made me consider the idea more seriously. So I set out to write a first chapter. The takeaway here is to invite Margaret Stohl to your wedding.
3. What is your favorite scene in the book?
I couldn't wait to write Cameron's revelatory conversation with another character while they stroll around the Tidal Basin at night. They walk past the most famous monuments in the city - from the Lincoln Memorial around the water until they reach the gigantic obelisk of the Washington Monument. I love Washington, DC - the city is essentially a character in the book. And this two-mile pathway is one of my favorite walks in the world, especially late at night. As Cameron and his companion pass the impressive structures, they discuss ambition, power, and sacrifice—fitting subjects for this pantheon of legendary American leaders.
4. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I've received the same advice from many successful authors, but I think Neil Gaiman puts it best: "If you only write when you're inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you'll never be a novelist because you're going to have to make your word count today and those words aren't going to wait for you, whether you're inspired or not." Simply put, if you want to be a writer, you have to write. You have to write when you're inspired (which is as awesome as it is rare). But more importantly: You have to write when you're tired, when you want to watch Netflix instead, when you have other things to do, and even when you really, really don't want to write. And then, something magical happens: the words come. Each time I write, it feels like jumping off a cliff, and then I land on a word, and another, and then there's this pathway of ideas that rolls out in my mind. But it only materializes when I sit down and start.
5. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Simon & Schuster designer Greg Stadnyk has created an iconic, deceptively complex piece of art. I love it! The handwritten red circle around the face underscores one of the key mysteries of the book: Why Cameron? What could an eighteen-year-old young man have to do with an explosive political mystery? And then, you realize that he's not the only face in the image; there are other young people. It's a group photo. The striking cover is a perfect reflection of the tone and intrigue of the story. (Thanks, Greg!)
6. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your book?
Action and plot and dialogue come naturally for me, but romance does not. And so Cameron's love interest Lena was a bit elusive at first. She's sophisticated, smart, and refined, and Cameron is this country kid. It took a while for me to find their vibe. But I eventually realized that their early interactions were kind of like the ones I had when I first met my wife (whose league of grace and cool I am GALAXIES away from). And then it clicked: I channeled a few early dates with my wife—my astonishment, my eagerness to be with her... that queasy vulnerability. Suddenly, I had all the inspiration I needed to make Cameron and Lena's relationship real and unique.
7. Are you a planner or a "pantser"?
I love the romantic ideal of writing "by the seat of my pants," but I don't think I could ever do that, especially with the intricate plot of a thriller. I created a detailed outline for The Perfect Candidate before I embarked on the full draft. I'd written the first chapter, but from there, I thought through each character's journey, their intersection points, and how to pull of the big twists in the story. That said, as I wrote I stumbled across new ideas, characters, and a couple of major changes from what I initially planned. I write like I explore a new city—often with a minute-by-minute schedule, but open to deviations, which usually involve a Banana Nutella crepe. I don't know how I got to "Banana Nutella crepe" in this answer, but I do know what I'm going to eat right now.
8. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2019?
Two Can Keep A Secret, by Karen M McManus. I tore through One of Us is Lying, and I am totally digging her John Hughes meets Agatha Christie vibe. I can't wait to dig into this new mystery, but mostly I'm excited to meet a new crew of deeply drawn and "I totally know this person" characters.
9. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
The National Speech & Debate Association. I think high school speech and debate is the best thing any teenager could do with their Saturdays. I spent so many of my adolescent weekends riding cold, early morning buses to random school campuses, where I'd argue the issues of the day and (tragically) try to be an actor with a dramatic interpretation. This training taught me how to think on my feet and empathize with all sides of an argument - and therefore, all kinds of people. My final speech tournament was the national competition, where I won first place in Impromptu speaking. That win and everything that came before it built my confidence and capabilities more than any other educational endeavor, and I want as many teens as possible to have the same opportunity to nerd out every weekend.
10. What’s up next for you?
I am currently revising a draft of my second novel - a standalone YA thriller. The setting and mystery of this new story are worlds away from the marble hallways and dark alleyways of Washington, DC. But writing it still makes me want to keep as many lights on as possible, while I translate a few nightmares into words on the page.
P.S. After you read The Perfect Candidate, it will become clear that there is much more of Cameron's story to tell. So I also continue to daydream about DC (I like my version of the city more than the real one these days!).
The Perfect Candidate
By: Peter Stone
Release Date: October 2, 2018
One winner will receive a copy of The Perfect Candidate (US only).