THE PRICE YOU PAY: 5 Questions with Nick Petrie


If you aren’t reading Nick Petrie’s work, you should be.

One of the rare authors who’s been compared to Lee Child and actually deserved it, Petrie first burst onto the scene back in 2016 when his first book, The Drifter, hit bookstores. That book introduced readers to Peter Ash, Petrie’s hero. At the time, even Lee Child himself weighed in saying, “Lots of characters get compared to my own Jack Reacher, but Petrie’s Peter Ash is the real deal.

Now, eight years later, Petrie is set to release his eighth book, The Price You Pay, one of this winter’s hottest new titles. You can read my full review here, but to sum it up, if you like action or are a fan of Lee Child or C.J. Box, then this one’s for you. Thankfully, Petrie, who has stopped by many times over the times, agreed to once again go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and this time around, he dropped a pretty big bomb about a book he’s currently working on that doesn’t involve Peter Ash.

Check out the full Q&A below, then make sure to order your copy of The Price You Pay, available everywhere books are sold on February 6th.





TRBS: First, let me say that I love THE PRICE YOU PAY. For some reason, I’ve always loved winter, and I’m a sucker for a good winter scene. When Peter and Lewis take off to find Teddy, I was hooked. How did you come up with the overall story idea for this one?

Petrie: “Actually, this book started with readers, who have been asking me to write a Lewis story since the very beginning. Usually, my books start when Peter Ash runs into somebody in trouble. When that trouble deepens, Peter calls Lewis, the most dangerous man he’s ever met. But in THE PRICE YOU PAY, the person in trouble is Lewis – which lets me reverse Lewis and Peter’s roles a bit, and also dive into Lewis’s past and talk about all kinds of things I’ve only hinted at before. I thought I knew a lot about Lewis before, but this book went places that really surprised me.

“As a sort of prequel for THE PRICE YOU PAY, I also wrote a caper novella set in Lewis’s run-and-gun days.  It’s called “The Cleveland Job”, and it was just published in Mystery Tribune, a great crime quarterly, available in paper or electronic form.  (To find it, click here)”

TRBS: In your words, because this is something I tried to touch on just a bit in my review, how has Peter Ash changed since you first introduced readers to him in THE DRIFTER, and has anything about him (or how he’s changed or developed) surprised you along the way?

Petrie: “In that first book, THE DRIFTER, Peter is a damaged war vet with PTSD-induced claustrophobia, living outside or in his truck, trying to help the widow of a friend from the service. (Although I should note that Peter would never describe himself as damaged—he doesn’t do self-pity, he’s just trying to get things done.)

“But I didn’t want Peter to be stuck in that hard place going forward.  I like series characters who evolve and change from book to book.  From my many conversations with combat vets, I knew that the war would always be with him – that it would never go away.  But I also knew there were some simple and scientifically proven things vets can do to learn to live with PTSD, and I wanted to show, from book to book, Peter coming to terms with his war and his challenges.  Along the way, he fell in love, made friends, and became able to build a real life.  Of course, once that happens, it’s my job as an author to threaten Peter’s peace—and that’s exactly what happens in THE PRICE YOU PAY.”

TRBS: I really love that your books bounce around to different settings all the time. As a writer, I almost envy that. My own series is set in Montana, and it’s challenging to keep finding stories to tell there while keeping things fresh and new. Why did you decide to take that approach early in the series, and is there one location or setting that you’ve not yet been able to use for a story that you’d like to?

Petrie: “While I love series that are set in the same location—like C.J. Box’s Wyoming books, or Michael Connelly’s L.A.—I wanted the freedom to send Peter anywhere I wanted him to go. In part, because it does make it easier to keep things fresh – there are so many more possible stories when you’ve got the whole country to explore – and also because I’m really a sucker for writing about place. A new setting can be a rich character in itself, both shaping the tone and suggesting storylines and themes to explore.

“In terms of next stops for Peter, I don’t know where he’s going next. When the time comes, I’ll make a list of the kinds of places he’s not yet been – Miami, for example, or Vegas, or Houston – and then think about how Peter would fit there—or not fit there—and see what stories suggest themselves.”

TRBS: You’re such a good storyteller. I always feel like I can never put your books down once I start ’em, and I always walk away satisfied yet ready for the next one. Talk to me about your writing process, and do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Petrie: “That’s a high compliment coming from you, Ryan! I feel the same way about your work. In terms of my process, I start with a setting and a situation and write forward from there. Sometimes I know a few of the events that might occur later in the book, but more often, I have no clue—I’m winging it scene by scene, and revising backwards as I go. It’s a terrible way to work and quite inefficient, but it works for me better than anything else I’ve tried. 

“For aspiring authors, the first piece of advice is always to read as much as you can.  As writers, books are our real teachers. So find the books that speak to you, that ring that gong somewhere inside you, and read them over and over again. Next, pick your favorite, the one you most admire, and take it apart to see how it works – on your second or third read, write a chapter-by-chapter beatline for the book, including the POV, number of pages, and what happens, all in two or three lines. This exercise will help you understand structure and character development in a deep and visceral way. I still do this myself every year. It’s an incredible tool.”

TRBS: Lastly, now that this book is set to come out, what’s next for you?

Petrie: “I’m almost done with my first standalone novel, still untitled. It’s about an ex-con named Bobby Cruikshank whose younger brother gets stabbed to death in a roadhouse parking lot. Bobby’s trying hard to keep himself on the straight and narrow, but when the county sheriff can’t find the killer, Bobby takes on the job himself—and will risk everything in the process, including the lives of the people he loves the most.

“The best thing about a standalone, compared to a series? You can kill any character you want.”




Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


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