Monday, January 22, 2024

Q&A with Peter Malone Elliott




Peter Malone Elliott is the author of the new novel Blue Ridge. Also a screenwriter and developmental editor, he lives in Brooklyn.


Q: What inspired you to write Blue Ridge, and how did you create your character Cillian?


A: I've always been intrigued by the weighty fragility of familial bonds, and how, in certain contexts, they can lead to the utter undoing of a person. Identical twins, in particular, have always fascinated me as a narrative conceit and character study.


Then, the initial germ of the plot hit me. What would happen if one twin brother wanted to murder the other, but someone beat him to it---and framed him for the deed?


And, given that I started writing this at the height of the pandemic---and I was back at home, living in Virginia---I was constantly reminded of the mysterious, ominous, haunting beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.


It didn't take long for me to realize that it would be the perfect backdrop for this dark brotherly tale---and then it was off to the races. 


Additionally, coming from a film background, it was incredibly exciting to me that, in a novel, I could truly dive into the psychology of these two twin brothers, Cillian and Christopher, in a manner that I just wouldn't have been able to do in a screenplay due to the limitations of the medium.


That in mind, it was a very quick decision for me to write the book in dueling, first-person POV perspectives and, in Cillian's case, really deconstruct the traditional archetype of the rugged, horse-whispering, Southern protagonist and examine it through a younger, much more modern lens. 


Q: In a review in the Washington City Paper, Annie Berke wrote of the novel, "Blue Ridge is briskly plotted and smartly structured, moving back and forward in time without making a single confusing or gratuitous move." What do you think of that description?


A: I'm honored by this description! I do think this is where my screenwriting training came in handy. Screenwriting forces you to think in a three-act structure, where no moment is wasted and every single scene must drive the story forward in some way, shape, or form. So, this is definitely an axiom that I kept on hand while drafting Blue Ridge. 


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I did know the ending before I started writing. I didn't necessarily know how I was going to get there, or everything that would happen along the way, but the ending that you'll read was very much on my mind during the entire drafting process.


I'm not a strict "plotter" or "pantser" either way---my outlining approach really depends on the type of project that I'm working on---but no matter what, I always have to know three things before my fingers hit the keyboard: the opening image, the midpoint, and the end.


For me, writing anything without having those three plot points ironed out would be a bit of an ouroboros exercise---I'd be going in circles for eternity!


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: First and foremost, the primary purpose of a thriller is to entertain---so I hope that readers are engaged, engrossed, and riveted throughout!


On a more holistic level, though, I hope that readers are intellectually stimulated by Cillian and Christopher's story, and maybe even have some of their expectations of what a Southern thriller can be subverted in the process!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm currently shopping around a horror-thriller set in Yosemite National Park that I hope will be the start of a series. I'm also in the nascent stages of developing another standalone, Virginia-based novel.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: For updates on what's going on with me, you can visit my website ( and my instagram (@pmewriter)!


I also just recently launched Fortiter et Recte Literary, my freelance business where I offer bespoke developmental editing on manuscripts and screenplays. You can find more information about that venture here:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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