Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Louise E. Rule Interviews PETER ST. JOHN for The Review's Author Interview

Welcome to  The Review's Author Interview

The author who is joining us for an interview today is Peter St. John, author of the Gang series.

Welcome to The Review Interview, Peter, and thank you for taking time out to have a chat with me about your books.

Below is an excerpt from the product description for Peter's latest book in paperback, Gang Warfare, which is due to be published in May by Silver Wood Books Ltd.

Gang Warfare front cover
 "Gang Warfare is a novel for all readers from nine to ninety-nine.

An orphan, evacuated from the World War II bombing of London, comes to live with his pious aunt in an English village, a bag of liquorice allsorts is knocked out of his hand in the school playground. This trivial incident ignites a series of events leading to a breakdown of relations in the local community."

The first question that I would like to ask you is; what was it that made you decide to write your Gang series? What was the drive behind these books?

My original intention was to write a series of short stories about happenings in an English village during World War II. I had never before tried my hand at fiction, so I began by writing a story about the problems caused when a huge tree, blown down in a storm, was cut up for firewood. This seemed to go fairly well at about 2,000 words, so I started another story about bullying at school.

By the time this was finished, it had grown to 100,000 words which is hardly a short story! Even so, this effort encouraged me to start a second novel, and lo and behold, the original short story abut the tree and the firewood became a critical pivot in the plot for my second novel, Gang Warfare.

Many readers wonder about the research of books. How difficult was the research for your books?

Itchy & Stinky at the gate
Most of the characters and situations in the six Gang books are drawn from memory. Thus very little research was required, except to verify the dates of certain events in 1940-1942, and to confirm the details of a few places in London.

Researching these events and places was easy and pleasurable. I met many helpful people who kindly offered much useful information and suggestions.

My two other novels, Triple Agent and Siberian Summer, called for considerable research, but this was mainly done at home using information obtained from local libraries, from purchased books, and from the internet.

Your latest novel Gang Warfare is described as being... "a novel for all readers from nine to ninety-nine". Would you like to tell our readers why you think that your latest book has such a wide appeal, Peter?

Big Ben
In the Gang books the principal actors are children and the narrator is a young lad. This might lead one to believe that the books would appeal mainly to children, but there are several reasons why I feel they may appeal to children and adults alike:

I had no particular readership in mind when writing, but rather sought to tell stories with wide appeal in which there are heroes, heroines, and villains of all kinds and ages. Whilst the stories are about children's gangs, they also involve many other people within a small community and describe their human, lively, and sometimes humorous, interactions.

I am also mindful that there are now six books published in the Gang series, and favourable feedback has come from readers of all ages, including somewhat nostalgic comment from senior citizens.

Could you please tell our readers about the main character in your book? For example, Jenno Bryce, and her brother, Stanley "Braces" Bryce. Are they based on someone you know, or are they fictional?

The principal character and narrator is a young orphan evacuated from the London blitz. All the events and adventures in the village of Widdlington are seen through his eyes.

Jenno is a feisty lass whose garden adjoins that of the narrator. They go to the same school but Jenno is a year younger. The fence between the two gardens marks the boundary between the territories of rival gangs. Fraternisation between the gangs is frowned upon. This, however, does not prevent a growing friendship across the fence. Jenno's year-older brother, "Braces", is in the same class as our hero, which sometimes influences the unfolding of events.
Jenno's Characters

All the characters in Widdlington are drawn, more-or-less, from childhood memories of real people. I say more-or-less, because some combine characteristics of two or more persons. On the other hand, a few of the characters are drawn almost completely from my imagination.

Because the Gang books are about a whole village community, there are a great many characters involved. Some play more important roles than others. Part of the challenge in writing this series, was to provide each character with a clearly defined personality and give each one a distinctive voice. It was also important to be consistent with village routine in wartime, where certain activities take place only on particular days and in well-established ways.
Braces Jumping over Emmerline P

Many authors have a strict routine for writing. Do you have a strict routine for your writing process, and do you have a special place where you like to write?

I have no routine, but once I get started on a book I become so absorbed in the unfolding of the plot that other activities tend to be put aside. I start a novel by setting up a kind of story-board, so that the interweaving events knit naturally together, taking into account the personalities involved, and without calling for improbable coincidences. It was also important to be aware of wartime austerity and the ever-present threat of danger. The story-board includes a map which helps to tie places and events together with appropriate and convincing time intervals.

The Cock Inn
As for a special place for writing, my house in France is an ancient smithy which used to employ the river alongside to drive the machinery. The building possesses considerable charm. The main workshop of the smithy has been converted into a large space for living, dining, music and books, Up in its rafters is a kind of mezzanine platform, which is a splendid place to write.

One final question, Peter. Do you have plans for more adventures in your popular Gang series?

USAAF Shield
A plot outline for a seventh book in the series has been prepared. It concerns the profound disturbances in the lives of the inhabitants of Widdlington caused by the setting up of a United States Army Air Force base close to the village. A tentative title for this novel is: Gang America.

Thank you, Peter, for taking part in this interview for the readers of The Review, it has been most enjoyable.

Details concerning Peter St. John's books can be found on his website: - Further information is given on and and his books can be obtained in both paperback and e-book. You can also find a comprehensive biography on Peter's Amazon page.

Peter can also be found here on Facebook.

Louise E. Rule is author of Future Confronted and can be found on and

Louise can also be found on Facebook here


  1. Lovely interview! Enjoyed it very much!

  2. Peter St. John's books are a treasure to read. This has been a grand interview, I cannot wait for the next in the series that will bring in the American influence.
    A plug his other works they are amazing, especially Siberian Summer.